Washington gives WIPP a thumbs up

From Capitol Report New Mexico - Nobody likes nuclear waste but it’s gotta go somewhere.
And it seems as long as Harry Reid is the US Senate Majority Leader, it ain’t going to Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. But right here in New Mexico, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is getting attention since it opened back in 1999 and the Obama administration nominee for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told a Senate panel on Capitol Hill this week that “I don’t think we even need to look to other countries for lessons [on how to handle nuclear waste]. We’re the only country with a deep geological repository already up and running — and it’s in New Mexico.” Here’s more from the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer: Any long-term storage facility for nuclear waste will have to overcome local unease and opposition — that’s what’s bogged down Yucca Mountain. But Carlsbad’s $2.5-billion plant was actually welcomed by local residents, who were worried about what would happen to the area’s economy once its potash mines ran out. As Roger Nelson of the Energy Department’s Carlsbad office told me, Carlsbad’s residents managed to lobby wary state legislators in New Mexico to drop their opposition. Since the plant opened a decade ago, the small desert town of 27,000 has been teeming with high-tech jobs. Read more

State officials dispute account in Swickard column

NewsNM Swickard: Heath asks good questions in his column, my response is below his column  - From NMPolitcs.net - By  - In his column this week, Michael Swickard argues that it’s “time to fire the political fire managers” who he says made “the political decision” to let the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso continue as a controlled burn instead of putting it out quickly. That’s not what state officials say happened. Gov. Susana Martinez and Eddie Tudor, bureau chief of resource management for New Mexico forestry, held a news conference in Ruidoso to try to stop the spread of rumors. Here’s Tudor, as quoted by the Ruidoso News: “‘The question has come up, why wasn’t water used, why wasn’t a bucket drop used,’ he said. Because of the elevation of the fire, 10,500 feet above sea level, helicopters were unable to respond with standard equipment, he said. Read more

Bingaman Announces $34.8 Million in PILT Payments to New Mexico Counties

Jeff Bingaman
Washington DC -  U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman today reported that New Mexico counties will share nearly $34.8 million in payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) funds. PILT, which is a program administered through the Department of the Interior, compensates counties for federal property such as national parks, national forest and land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which cannot be taxed by local governments. Because PILT was shortchanged each year in the annual appropriations process, Bingaman forcefully advocated for automatic full funding for the program – which many New Mexico counties rely heavily upon. In 2008, Bingaman played a key role in negotiations that guaranteed full funding through fiscal year 2012, while also improving a separate initiative called the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. That effort resulted in significant funding for New Mexico in each of the last few years. "Many New Mexico communities rely on PILT funding to maintain schools, roads and emergency response services. This funding is an important investment in our state and I'm pleased Congress was able to ensure full funding for this program," Bingaman said. Read More News New Mexico 


Obama's EPA Has Gone Mad - Next Target, Ditches

Human Events - Lawmakers are working to block an unprecedented power grab by the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Water Act (CWA) and control land alongside ditches, gullies and other ephemeral spots by claiming the sources are part of navigable waterways.
These temporary water sources are often created by rain or snowmelt, and would make it harder for private property owners to build in their own backyards, grow crops, raise livestock and conduct other activities on their own land, lawmakers say.
“Never in the history of the CWA has federal regulation defined ditches and other upland features as ‘waters of the United States,’” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking committee member, and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. “This is without a doubt an expansion of federal jurisdiction,” the lawmakers said in a May 31 letter to House colleagues.
The unusual alliance of the powerful House Republicans and Democrat to jointly sponsor legislation to overturn the new guidelines signals a willingness on Capitol Hill to rein in the formidable agency. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Audit: 53% Recitvism Rate at State Prisons

KOAT - Legislative auditors say the Corrections Department needs to better prepare state inmates for release from prison to reduce recidivism and slow a growing prison population.
A Legislative Finance Committee audit on Thursday found that 53 percent of New Mexico inmates return to prison within five years of their release. The report estimates that reducing recidivism by 10 percent can save millions of dollars in costs of housing inmates. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Which Critter Will Be Next?

Once upon a time the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned for the dunes sagebrush lizard's addition to the endangered species list. Often charging taxpayers hundreds of dollars an hour using laws that essentially allow the organization to tap into limitless public resources to protect various and sundry "species" from extinction, the CBD said yesterday that the Obama administration caved to pressure from the oil and gas industry when it refused to list the latest favorite critter.
According to San Angelo Standard-Times, Taylor McKinnon of the CBD said, "This decision by the Obama administration to toss aside the Endangered Species Act and bow to the wishes of the oil and gas industry is not only bad news for this rare lizard but sets a dangerous precedent for other declining species." McKinnon made no mentioned of employed human beings in his reference to "declining species."
In one of the more creative environmentalist scams yet, the CBD tried to lock in on the shinnery oak trees in the lizards "habitat." Shinnery oak is toxic to cattle, which provided the radicals with not one but two of their favorite targets, oil and gas jobs and ranching jobs.
The CBD was not alone in lamenting the lost opportunity to plunge a dagger into the Permian Basin economy. The WildEarth Guardians were also upset that the proposal to list the lizard had failed. "The lizard occupies a tiny patch of habitat in the basin," said a WildEarth Guardians statement. "Oil and gas drilling would have been unaffected by conservation actions in more than 99 percent of the region if the lizard was listed."
One thing is for certain. These radical, anti-jobs, anti-energy, anti-agricultural organizations will manufacture another series of job and growth killing lawsuits. The only question is which critter will they use in their insatiable thirst to drive the price of food and energy into the stratosphere.


New Mexico Assaults Religious Liberty

New Mexico Court of Appeals 
National Review OnlineWhen 43 Catholic dioceses, schools, and institutions filed suit against the Obama administration to block the HHS mandate, they reiterated for all Americans the importance of preserving “our first, most cherished liberty”: religious liberty, as guaranteed in the First Amendment. But while national attention lingers on that specific clash, fresh assaults on religious liberty carry on elsewhere. The latest battleground is New Mexico. In 2008, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission found Elane Photography, an Albuquerque photography studio co-owned by Elaine Huguenin and her husband, Jonathan, guilty of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for refusing to photograph Vanessa Willock’s same-sex “commitment ceremony.” The court ordered the business to pay $6,600 in attorney’s fees. If it was little surprise that the commission found in favor of Willock, it was a shock when, last month, the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The three-judge panel rejected Elane Photography’s claim that forcing the business to photograph the same-sex ceremony against its conscientious objections constituted “compelled speech” in violation of the owners’ federal and state rights. It also rejected the Huguenins’ claims to protection under the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause and the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Read More News New Mexico


New organization will focus on "public-interest" journalism in N.M.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded $525,000 to New Mexico In Depth, a new organization whose goal is to foster, promote and publish journalism in the public interest. Two veteran journalists – Trip Jennings and Heath Haussamen – will lead New Mexico In Depth as it produces its own investigative reports and forges partnerships with existing media outlets around New Mexico in a bid to nurture a culture of ambitious journalism that tackles big questions and complex issues. Our focuses will include education, poverty, health and politics.
Trip Jennings
Jennings will serve as executive director and Haussamen will serve as deputy director. The two-year funding commitment from the Kellogg Foundation means New Mexico In Depth will begin publishing later this year. New Mexico In Depth is also funded in part by the McCune Charitable Foundation.
Heath Haussamen
Jennings is an award-winning veteran journalist who has worked at newspapers across the nation, including in California, Connecticut and Georgia. Besides working at the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican, Jennings was part of a team that started the New Mexico Independent, an influential online newspaper.
Haussamen, a former award-winning newspaper reporter who worked with Jennings at the Independent, is the editor and publisher of the political news website NMPolitics.net. He plans to continue operating NMPolitics.net while working with New Mexico In Depth.
“We are inspired by Kellogg’s belief in the importance of probative journalism that ventures beyond the daily events to seek to explain what it all means to New Mexicans,” Jennings said.
“We’re excited by the potential New Mexico In Depth has to foster a stronger journalistic culture in our state,” Haussamen said. “We’re thrilled to be able to devote time and resources to building partnerships that make that a reality.”