Morning Word

President Biden Heads to Belen to Talk Manufacturing

Feds make more money available for Cerro Pelado fire victims

Biden heads to Belen

President Joe Biden arrived in New Mexico yesterday (here are some photos), part of a three-state Western tour that began in Arizona and will end in Utah. According to the Associated Press, Biden’s speech today is expected to focus on a revival of manufacturing, and will take place at Belen’s Arcosa factory, which National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi referenced during a press gaggle earlier this week. “Just picture in your minds that two weeks ago in Belen, New Mexico, at 11 am on Main Street, a bunch of folks showed up as Arcosa held a job fair for the 250 folks they’re going to hire to work at this factory that’s going to manufacture wind towers,” Zaidi said. “And that’s everyone from welders to maintenance and quality technicians. This is a tremendous opportunity for the country. We’re seeing it all across the United States—this boom in US clean energy manufacturing. One hundred factories and counting announced just to manufacture clean energy components since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed.” The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that while details of Biden’s New Mexico visit have been sparse, Belen is readying for his arrival—the first by any sitting US president, according to Belen Mayor Robert Noblin. “As rumor has it, Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady Roosevelt, came through on a train many years ago while her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, was president,” Noblin told the paper. “George Bush campaigned at Bosque Farms Elementary in 2000 ahead of being elected, but we haven’t had a seated president ever visit.”

NM receives more funds for Cerro Pelado fire cleanup

New Mexico will receive additional funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs associated with last year’s Cerro Pelado Fire. According to a US Forest Service report released last month, that fire—like the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon blaze—also occurred as a result of prescribed burn, a debris pile burn in the case of Cerro Pelado, which ultimately burned approximately 45,605 acres in the Santa Fe National Forest Jemez Ranger District and threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory. President Joe Biden amended the state’s disaster declaration yesterday to make more funds available. “I am grateful to President Biden for recognizing the federal government’s responsibility to cover the costs associated with this disaster caused by the US Forest Service’s mismanagement of a prescribed burn,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “The victims of the Cerro Pelado fire are still recovering, and I encourage FEMA to get this money out the door as quickly as possible so that impacted New Mexicans can rebuild their communities.” According to a source with knowledge of Biden’s New Mexico visit, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján planned to hand-deliver a letter to the president that noted ongoing problems with FEMA getting money to victims of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire, caused in part by the agency’s delay in finalizing regulations for the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act. Luján intends to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to expand the law to include victims of the Cerro Pelado fire. In a statement from his office, Luján said: “I was proud to pass the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act into law, but it’s clear that more must be done to make New Mexicans whole from these devastating fires.”

AG: Some landowners illegally blocking river access

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez told lawmakers this week his office is investigating allegations of landowners blocking access to rivers and streams in defiance of state law. Last year, the State Supreme Court ruled a New Mexico Game Commission rule allowing private property owners to block public access to public water was unconstitutional. “The New Mexico Supreme Court recently affirmed the constitutional right of every citizen to access public waters for recreational purposes and put private landowners on notice that they are not entitled to exclude others from those waters by fencing off New Mexico’s rivers and streams,” Torrez said in a statement. “These waters belong to the people of this state and we stand ready to use every available tool to ensure public access to these natural resources.” According to a news release, the AG’s office has received “complaints from anglers and outside advocacy groups that landowners continue to block access to publicly owned rivers and streams” and has photographic evidence that “appears to show that some of the fences consist of barbed wire at or below the water line, constituting a clear public safety hazard for anglers and others accessing public waters.” The AG’s office says it intends to finish its investigation within a few weeks and provide landowners the chance to “voluntarily remove or modify the barriers to allow for public access, before any formal action is taken.”

Tourism secretary will take over ALTSD

New Mexico Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer, who has served in that position since January 2019, will take over the state’s Aging and Long-Term Services Department following ATLSD Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez’s retirement last month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced yesterday. “Secretary Schroer has been a valuable member of my cabinet,” the governor said in a statement. “She has a long history of service to New Mexico that will inform her decisions leading a new department. As an emerging health care leader, Sec. Schroer knows how to get things done and finds creative ways to problem solve—attributes that will serve New Mexicans who use the services in the Aging and Long-Term Services Department well. I look forward to working with her in this new role.” According to a news release, Schroer’s previous health care experience includes leading the communication component of the state’s COVID-19 response; developing the health department’s Better Together campaign; and creating the Healthcare Marketing Coalition. “I see great opportunity in improving how the state assists older adults and their caregivers in maintaining independence, living safely and autonomously,” Schroer said in a statement. Lancing Adams, the state’s tourism development director, will serve as its acting tourism secretary.

Listen up

As this newsletter recently reported, the Academy of American Poets recently named New Mexico Poet Laureate Lauren Camp among its 2023 Poet Laureate Fellows, an honor that comes with $50,000. Camp talks to KUNM about her background in radio, becoming the state’s poet laureate and how she plans to spend the money. “I have a big project that I’m going to do,” she says. “My intention is to lead free workshops at schools and libraries in various parts of New Mexico, especially rural and underserved populations. And those workshops are partly designed so that the communities themselves and the participants in these workshops can give responses that I can build into poems for each community.”

Take charge

As we move into an electric car future, how is New Mexico faring when it comes to electric charging infrastructure? Not so great, according to CleanTechnica, a media site devoted to, yes, clean technology, which recently discussed the state’s electric charging status infrastructure thusly: “New Mexico, a state that’s often #1 at bad things and #50 on good things. Poverty, drug addiction, drunk driving, and pointless violence are not only common, but seemingly normal, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the state ends up being among the last to get EV charging infrastructure along the major roads.” Ouch. All is not lost, however, writes Jennifer Sensiba, who notes that the state has made progress in providing charging for Teslas on the interstates. Still: “For those who can get a charge with a NACS plug or adapter, all of the state’s interstate highways are well-covered. But, for those charging on CCS, there’s no coverage at all for a good chunk of the I-25 corridor. Even worse, there are no Supercharger stations away from the Interstates, with the exception of Farmington, and there are only a few CCS stations in the southeast quadrant of the state.” Plans also are underway for more stations across the state, although not quickly enough, Sensiba writes, before attributing the slow pace at which those plans are underway to the state’s “mañana” culture, along with “corruption, bureaucracy, and nepotism.” FWIW, the New York Times included New Mexico in its recent story on electric-car friendly road trips. The state tourism department also has an interactive map of the state’s charging stations.

Taos in any season

Yesterday’s ferocious rain storm served myriad purposes, including as a reminder that summer and its unbearable heat will end, and winter and (hopefully) snow will resume. For help attaining this frame of mind, check out Liam Doran’s recent photo essay for Powder, in which Doran recounts the first time he heard of Taos in the early 2000s when he worked in a ski shop. “A few of the older crew had just returned from a quick storm chasing trip” in Taos, Doran writes. “I was working the stone grinder that night while the crew spilled beer down their neck holes telling tales about long lanes of open tree lines, steep chutes littered with friendly airs, huge bowls, deep powder and martini bars hidden in the forest. In short, my kind of place.” Since then, he’s “logged a few dozen days chasing storms into the land of enchantment. And, as it turns out the stories were all true.” And speaking of Taos, you don’t have to wait until ski season to visit. In fact, The Travel includes Taos on its list of best small towns in the US to visit in September. “The city is the perfect combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage, and its desert landscape comes alive with warm hues, making it an ideal time to explore,” The Travel proclaims.

The calm after the storm

The National Weather Service forecasts a drier day: sunny, with a high temperature near 86 degrees amd southwest wind 5 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the morning.

Thanks for reading! The Word thinks her fellow Ann Patchett fans will enjoy Patchett’s recent interview with the New York Times Book Review podcast (especially the parts where she mentions Laurie Colwin and discusses not owning a cell phone).

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