Yesterday, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule for US waterways. The new rule rolls back protections for many streams and wetlands. If you missed it, this Los Angeles Times story ($) lays out the threat this new rule poses for New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney both released statements denouncing the new rule, with the governor calling it "an absolute disaster for the state's water resources" and Kenney saying the Trump administration's "self-proclaimed deregulatory agenda ignores sound science, states' rights and most troubling, the EPA's own mission to protect public health and the environment." US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, also issued a statement, saying, "Simply put, the Trump administration is endangering the future of clean water in New Mexico, the Southwest and across the country."
We’re in the money
New Mexico's permanent endowment funds will distribute over the next fiscal year more than $1 billion to schools, universities and other recipients—an unprecedented windfall. The money—an increase of more than $60 million from last year—is the result of record oil and gas earnings, along with investments, according to State Investment Officer Steve Moise. "These funds are not only an engine to fund schools and government today, but also represent our state's nest egg for the inevitable day when oil and gas revenues are less plentiful," he said in a statement.
County considers closing juvenile detention center
Next week, Santa Fe's Board of County Commissioners will consider closing its juvenile detention center—the Youth Development Program—in light of rising costs and reduced bookings ($TNM). In a memo to commissioners, Santa Fe County Manager Katherine Miller said closing the facility could save the county approximately $1.7 million each year. The memo indicates staff from the juvenile detention center staff could be incorporated into the Santa Fe County jail or the Regional Emergency Communications Center.
Udall and Heinrich call out Trump
US Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-NM, yesterday decried the Trump administration's role in the current impeachment trial. In a news conference, Udall said Trump was "playing with jury intimidation" by telling the Senate, "'Don't call (former National Security Adviser John) Bolton as a witness.'" On Twitter, Heinrich criticized the trial in a series of Tweets, saying he thinks "it is an obvious attempt to shield all of us from the facts."
NM leads in private prisons
Half of New Mexico's prisoners last year were held in private prisons, according to a report from The Sentencing Project, compared with the national rate of 8%. With other states decreasing or banning private prisons, New Mexico continues to lead the nation. Kara Gotsch, The Sentencing Project's director of strategic initiatives, calls New Mexico's rate of private prison use "huge and unprecedented." In a US News and World Report article, Gotsch attributes New Mexico's history of private prisons to a variety of factors, including a political history beginning with former Gov. Gary Johnson's administration in the 1990s. "The governor at the time believed in them and despite years of problems, riots and debt in private facilities, the state continues to really double down on them, even during Democratic governor administrations," she says.
In Episode 4 of "Your New Mexico Government," a podcast devoted to the 54th Legislature, Antonia Gonzales, producer and anchor of National Native News on Koahnic Broadcasting, discusses how some of the big legislative priorities are being received in the state's Indigenous communities. She also speaks on some of the issues not being talked about much in the Roundhouse, such as the protection of sacred sites. Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.
Senate Bill 1, the Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Act, received a unanimous pass out of the Senate Rules committee yesterday and now heads to the New Mexico Senate Finance Committee. If adopted by the Legislature this session, New Mexico would be among the first states to try to take advantage of a proposed federal rule allowing states to import some pharmaceutical drugs from Canada. "We're trying to act fast on the opportunity," said Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, one of the measure's sponsors. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham mentioned support for the bill in her State of the State address on Tuesday, including it as one measure to help lower health care costs for New Mexicans.
If you're interested in pecans (and who isn't?), you'll be riveted to learn New Mexico had a record high for "utilized pecan production" in 2019: that's 96.60 million pounds, according to yesterday's report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That makes us No. 1 in the country for pecans. The 2019 price per pound in New Mexico at $1.76, however, was $0.14 lower than in 2018. Georgia, which is still recovering from Hurricane Michael, came in second with 69 million pounds. A lot of "moving parts" are involved with New Mexico's successful pecan industry, according to this story in the Las Cruces Sun ($), with Dona Ana County responsible for 70% of the state's pecans. The story also looks at the impact the US trade wars have had with China. On the bright side, a 2016 federal order created the American Pecan Council, which helps market and promote pecans.
Happy new year, redux
If that pecan news didn't make you hungry, perhaps contemplating The Year of the Rat will? OK, rats on the face of it aren't that appetizing, but SFR food writer Zibby Wilder makes a good case for taking advantage of The Year of the Rat and this Saturday's Lunar New Year to go eat some Chinese food. Wilder dipped into perennial Best of Santa Fe fave Chow's Asian Bistro, as well as Lulu's Chinese Cuisine & Bar and has the skinny, so to speak, on both of those dining experiences. Wilder also has the deets on Open Kitchen's traditional Lunar New Year dinner. Eat up!
Santa Fe awarded for water conservation
Restaurants looking to improve their water conservation should look to the City of Santa Fe's restaurant water conservation program. The program, a partnership between the city, the Green Chamber of Commerce and Phyn—a leak-detecting marketing technology manufacture—provides a free commercial water audit and identifies ways to cut down on water use, along with free onsite equipment, such as aerators and pre-rinse spray valves. The program earned the city a Sustainable City of 2020 award from Green Building Media, Inc, along with Austin and San Luis Obispo. The city is currently recruiting 100 restaurants to participate. "Our water conservation efforts have set a national standard and these restaurants are our partners in creating a cleaner greener more water-conscious city," Mayor Alan Webber said in a press release about the award and the program.
In the clear
Sunny today with a high near 43. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Low tonight around 26 degrees. Much of the same all weekend long, with sunny skies Saturday and Sunday, highs in the mid 40s and winds in the 5 to 15 mph range. Forecasts call for Monday to be mostly sunny as well, but with a 20% chance of showers.
Thanks for reading! The Word had a strange lack of response to yesterday's news that the Doomsday clock is now closer to midnight than any time in its history. She's going to try to worry about it over the weekend.