Concerns that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not properly vetted a proposal to locate a nuclear waste storage facility in Lea and Eddy counties led New Mexico to file a lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court. Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company, filed an application in 2017 for a license to construct and operate an interim storage facility in New Mexico. This comes as the United States lacks long-term storage for nuclear waste generated during power production and has been searching for a solution. While searching for solutions, interim storage facilities have been identified as one possible solution.
The state argues that the license is outside of the scope of authority for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because of the impacts the facility could have to the people of New Mexico. These potential impacts could be both economic and environmental, according to the suit.
Donald Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit over the use of ballot drop boxes in New Mexico’s elections—part of the campaign’s nationwide, unsuccessful efforts to overturn election results after he lost his reelection bid.
The campaign filed the lawsuit in mid-December, weeks after the election and after the state had certified its election results and the same day New Mexico’s electors cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden. The lawsuit centered on the legality of ballot dropboxes for absentee ballots, and echoed a lawsuit filed in state court by the party. The party withdrew that lawsuit ahead of the election after it said the party came to a “consensual resolution” with the Secretary of State. Like the other lawsuits, dozens of which the campaign had dismissed or lost, the lawsuit was aimed at overturning election results. But unlike in some states with relatively close margins of victory for Joe Biden, Trump lost the election in New Mexico by nearly 100,000 votes and over 11 percentage points.
Update: The Supreme Court dismissed the case on Friday. The story, as originally written, continues below. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto an amicus brief from the New York Attorney General opposing a Texas lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the election results in four states won by Democrat Joe Biden. The lawsuit from Texas, which received the support of 17 Republican attorneys general and over 100 Republican members of the U.S. House, is a longshot attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn certified victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia by Biden and hand the victory to incumbent Donald Trump despite the Republican receiving fewer votes. The suit claims that changes in election procedures in those states led to an unfair election—and called for millions of votes to be invalidated based on how they were cast.
The state of New Mexico, through the state Attorney General’s Office, filed a brief on Monday with the New Mexico Supreme Court that argued the emergency public health orders do not warrant compensation to business owners.
The brief is the latest in a pending state Supreme Court case spurred by a request from state Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office in October. Balderas’ office asked the high court to answer the question of whether ordering a business to shut down as part of an emergency public health order constitutes taking that business, or eminent domain.
Since this past summer, there have been a dozen state district court cases filed by local business owners, arguing that those owners are due compensation from the state. Balderas’ office asked the state Supreme Court to weigh-in on the matter to save time and resources in those district court cases.
The high court agreed to take on the case and asked for briefs and responses from both the state and the group of business owners who are currently suing the state.
In the brief filed on Monday, Balderas’ office argued that the state’s Public Health Emergency Response Act only allows for compensation of medical supply companies or medical providers that would be hypothetically taken over by the state during a public health emergency. Even if the law allowed for compensation, Balderas’ office argued, it would make it nearly impossible for the state to take action during an emergency. “This specter of liability would hobble the State’s ability to take emergency action — whether destroying a burning building or prohibiting activity known to spread a pandemic — that is necessary to protect health and safety,” the brief read.
The brief also argued that ordering businesses to close temporarily should not be hindered by second thoughts or concerns that the state may be liable for lost revenue.
“The State should not be hamstrung in its efforts to respond to emergencies and stop activities that endanger the public by the prospect of liability,” the Attorney General’s office wrote.
Raúl Torrez, Bernalillo County District Attorney, signed a joint statement from elected prosecutors around the country who pledged not to criminalize abortion care. Bernalillo County is home to most of the clinics that provide abortions in the state. An additional clinic exists in both Santa Fe County and Doña Ana County. The statement, produced by Fair and Just Prosecution, a fiscally-sponsored project of a public charity called The Tides Center, stated that the 62 prosecutors who signed it would neither prosecute nor criminalize abortion care. “What brings us together is our view that as prosecutors we should not and will not criminalize healthcare decisions such as these – and we believe it is our obligation as elected prosecutors charged with protecting the health and safety of all members of our community to make our views clear,” according to the statement.
When the New Mexico Legislature passed the 1969 law on abortion, it was the least restrictive version of the state’s previous abortion laws, but one advocates say would be too restrictive if it goes back into effect. Since U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on September 18, and President Trump’s nominee of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, there is a heightened concern that Roe v. Wade could be overturned in the immediate future. If that happens before the state’s 1969 abortion law is repealed, the state could turn back the clock to the 51-year-old law. An attempt to repeal the 1969 law failed in the state Senate in 2019. Related: Senate rejects repealing currently unenforceable anti-abortion law
If it were to become the state’s law, enforcement would be a matter for each individual district attorney’s office, said Matt Baca, chief counsel for the state’s Attorney General Hector Balderas.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. The vacancy her seat creates will now give Republicans the opportunity to try to place another conservative justice to the bench. President Donald Trump, reacting to two Supreme Court decisions in June that he didn’t like, tweeted that he would have a new list of conservatives to appoint to the bench by September 1. Within just a few hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not wait to bring to a vote for a Trump appointee this election year, according to multiple media sources.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule that critics say would enable shelters to discriminate against transgender people and lawfully turn people away who need a place to sleep for the night. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed the rule in early July and allowed for a 60-day comment period. The rule, if promulgated, would affect shelters that receive federal funds and are single sex dormitories or segregate into single sex areas. Under the proposed rule, shelter providers can turn people away if their gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were classified as at birth. Albuquerque’s West Side Shelter receives federal funding and has single-sex areas.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Tuesday he will file a suit against the Donald Trump administration for changes to the U.S. Postal Service, one of 20 attorneys general, all Democrats, who have announced they would sue the federal government. Also on Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he would suspend the controversial policies that have slowed down the delivery of mail until after the election. Matt Baca, the chief counsel with the Attorney General’s office, told NM Political Report that they would proceed with the lawsuit “to ensure absolute compliance with the law.”
The changes, which Balderas mentioned in his statement announcing the suit, include cutting overtime for postal staff and removing letter sorting equipment, which caused critics to say the actions were an attempt to slow the mail as the country moved towards an election with record numbers of mail-in ballots. “The postal service is a vital lifeline for rural New Mexico, and this action threatens to disproportionately harm our Indigenous communities, from their daily living to their ability to participate in our democracy,” Balderas said in a statement. “I am asking the courts to step in and supervise this process to ensure that the federal government is working with states, including our Secretary of State, to ensure these services are delivered in the way our Constitution mandates.”
The suit said that the Postal Service made the changes in excess of its authority and did not follow the proper procedures, which would require changes to go through the Postal Regulatory Commission.
New Mexico is one of 18 states suing the Trump administration over the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule that targets international students. The lawsuit calls the new regulation an “insuperable burden” on American colleges and universities as they now have to certify every international student’s respective class schedule to demonstrate that the students are not taking all of their course work online, by August 4. ICE issued the new regulation last week, which some affected New Mexico institutions of higher learning called “vague.” New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology has 134 international students. The University of New Mexico has 1,100 and New Mexico State University has about a 1,000. The regulation states that students on nonimmigrant F-1 or M-1 visas cannot legally remain in the country if all of their course work is online.