Morning Word

Federal Court Rules Against Chaco Drilling Permits

January medical cannabis sales lowest since recreational sales began

Federal court sides with groups challenging Chaco drilling

The US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on Wednesday ruled in favor of environmentalist and advocacy groups that the US Interior Department didn’t take greenhouse gas emissions into account when it approved close to 200 drilling permits near Chaco Culture National Historical Park. As the Associated Press reports, the court also paused approval of additional drilling permits. Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, WildEarth Guardians, San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Sierra Club and the Western Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit challenging the permits; a news release from the organizations announcing the recent court decision notes the “Greater Chaco region has faced growing threats from oil and gas extraction, which has brought drilling, fracking, and industrial development onto public lands and into Diné communities.” The latest ruling now requires the Bureau of Land Management “to use accurate science in determining whether an action will have significant air quality, hazardous air pollution and cumulative environmental impacts,” Mike Eisenfeld, Energy and Climate Program manager for San Juan Citizens Alliance said in a statement. “The court’s ruling will help protect the Greater Chaco Region from arbitrary analyses, and enforce environmental justice safeguards.” Wednesday’s ruling also “vindicated” Frontline Diné communities and their allies, Western Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney and Climate & Energy Program Director Kyle Tisdel said in a statement. “We will continue to demand justice, and that their water, health, and the climate stop being sacrificed to Big Oil profits,” he said.

January recreational cannabis second highest

January’s recreational-use cannabis sales—approximately $26.5 million—dropped from December’s record-breaking $28 million figure, but were still the second highest since sales began in April, 2022, according to the state Cannabis Control Division’s newest report. Medical cannabis sales last month were close to $13.8 million, the lowest they have been since recreational sales began—a cause for concern, according to Ultra Health CEO and President Duke Rodriguez. “The medical cannabis sales indicate that our most vulnerable citizens—those with debilitating conditions—are seeking relief wherever their dollars can stretch furthest,” Rodriguez tells the Albuquerque Journal, “and right now their dollars stretch further on illicit black market street corners.” Santa Fe had approximately $1.8 million in recreational sales and $1.2 million in medical last month, down from close to $2 million and approximately $1.3 million, respectively, the month prior. Albuquerque had close to $8 million in sales last month, down from around $8.3 million in December.

Interior reports $580 million for tribal water settlements

The US Interior Department yesterday announced close to $580 million in allocations from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Reclamation Water Settlements Fund to continue fulfilling settlements of Indian water rights claims. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $2.5 billion to implement the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund, created by Congress in 2009; the Interior Department will allocate nearly $460 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund this year for settlements enacted prior to Nov. 15, 2021, along with $120 million from the Reclamation Water Settlement Fund. “Water is a sacred resource, and water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of Tribal communities,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “Through this funding, the Interior Department will continue to uphold our trust responsibilities and ensure that Tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised.” The funding announced yesterday includes $137 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and $30.5 million for New Mexico’s Aamodt Litigation Water Rights Settlement.

Nothing is certain but...

In what passes for good news, the state Senate Tax, Business & Transportation Committee yesterday unanimously passed Senate Bill 10, which would provide a new round of one-time tax rebates for New Mexicans. Specifically, the bill at present provides $750 rebates to single filers and $1,500 to joint filers and would go to all taxpayers who completed a 2021 return. An additional $30 million would be appropriated under the bill to the Human Services Department to cover payments for non-filers. “This relief will help countless New Mexico families make ends meet,” state Sen. Benny Shendo, D–Jemez, said in a statement as he presented the bill to the committee. Co-sponsors of the bill include state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Speaker of the House Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also backs the bill, noting in a statement last month that given the state’s budget surplus for the coming fiscal year, coupled with high prices, “we can and we should take action to help more New Mexicans afford the things they need right now.” The Legislature and governor approved comparable rebates last year; this year’s tax rebate bill next goes to the Senate Finance Committee. And, speaking of taxes, if you need some help heading into tax season, AARP Foundation’s free Tax Aide Program at the Santa Fe Community College is up and running through April 18.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Feb. 2: New cases: 193; 665,237 total cases. Deaths: 0; Santa Fe County has had 392 total deaths; 8,958 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 86. Patients on ventilators: four

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Feb. 2 “community levels” map shows the same four county categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19 as last week: De Baca, Curry, Quay and Roosevelt counties. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

On a recent episode of the American Federation of Teachers union podcast, Union Talk, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham joins Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker for a discussion with AFT President Randi Weingarten about public education and healthcare initiatives. Lujan Grisham is backing legislation in this year’s session that would require 100% of the first $10,000 of insurance costs and at least 60% of the cost greater than $10,000 for educators covered by the New Mexico Public School Insurance Authority. That bill, HB102, passed the House Education Committee earlier this week and is scheduled for the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee next week.

Finders keepers

Fans of watching the hopeful lug their goods and chattels for appraisal on Antiques Roadshow may enjoy reading “Trash to Treasure: How I Found a 70-Year-Old, $3,000 Chair in a Junk Pile,” an essay by Gear Patrol magazine’s Outdoor and Fitness Staff Writer Hayley Helms. The essay opens in Taos, where the author, her mother and aunt are about to open a storage unit that had belonged to her late great aunt during her time living in New Mexico. As the essay’s title indicates, a chair was found: “At the time, I didn’t know the name or make of the chair, but I knew at first sight it was something special.” Helms approaches her great aunt’s former storage locker with trepidation due to the latter’s hoarding issues (Helms’ family had already spent two years cleaning out her great aunt’s LA apartment). While they do have to sort through a fair amount of trash, they also find teak, Nambe tableware and “original paintings by native Taos artists.” Speaking of Taos painters, the second installment of the Santa Fe Antiques Roadshow episodes can now be viewed online and, in this one, New Mexico artist and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Tony Abeyta discovers a valuable painting by Taos Society of Artists founder and painter Joseph Henry Sharp (ICYMI, SFR spoke with Abeyta recently about the painting and the new gig). The third and final Santa Fe episode airs at 7 pm on Monday, Feb. 6 on New Mexico PBS.

Never ever getting back together

If you’re sure the break-up is going to stick, consider gathering your exes’ possessions and heading to the New Mexico History Museum from 5 to 7 pm tonight for a special pre-Valentine’s “They’re History” event, at which you will learn how to reuse, remake, recycle or donate your former beloved’s abandoned stuff. Sound a teensy bit abject? Worry not. According to the museum’s event page: “This isn’t just about starting fresh! Visitors will learn how to take old magazines and books and start origami projects, make old T-shirts into fresh fits, and make Pal-entines to demonstrate their love for family and friends.” The History Museum staff also will be on hand to “help connect visitors with community resources, which can help inspire and educate others.” For a more traditional craft approach to the pending holiday, the New Mexico Museum of Art will host Valentine’s Day card-making for families from 10 am to noon on Sunday, Feb. 5. Both museum events are free, as is the Valentine’s Day card-making event at 3 p on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Main Library. If a card won’t cut it this year, Forbes magazine has a round-up of pink sparkling wines to consider, including Albuquerque-based Vara Winery & Distillery’s first release with New Mexico sparkling winemaker Laurent Gruet: the Silverhead Brut Rosado NV. You can check that out ahead of time at Vara’s Santa Fe tasting room. Or, if you want to go OG with your Gruet, Gruet’s tasting room (210 Don Gaspar) is offering an exclusive dessert and wine pairing flight ($30 per person) during normal business hours beginning Feb. 10-14. Reserve seats by emailing

You’re getting warmer

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high temperature near 49 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. The temps will keep rising this weekend with mostly sunny skies on Saturday and a high temperature near 52 degrees, followed by a sunny Sunday and a high near 54 degrees. Enjoy the warm weekend; yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter.

Thanks for reading! The Word wishes she could spend the weekend at the London Review Bookshop, where the late Janet Malcolm is author of the month, reading Malcolm’s last book (here’s an engaging essay about that book) while eating something delicious in the cake shop.

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