Morning Word

President Biden “prepared to help” NM downwinders

Virgin Galactic scheduled to launch private citizens to space this morning

Morning Word

President Biden “prepared to help” NM downwinders

President Joe Biden indicated yesterday he’s open to compensating New Mexico victims of atomic testing. Late last month, the US Senate passed an expansion and extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act program as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that includes, for the first time, New Mexico downwinders and post-1971 Uranium miners, who have never been eligible for such compensation. US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who has introduced RECA legislation annually since being elected to the US House in 2008, brought up the issue in remarks before Biden’s speech in New Mexico yesterday. In turn, Biden said he had told Luján he’s “prepared to help in terms of making sure that those folks are taken care of.” Biden’s speech, delivered at wind-tower manufacturer Arcosa in Belen, primarily focused on so-called “Bidenomics.” “I’m not here to declare victory on the economy. We have a lot more work to do,” he said. “But we have a plan. And it’s turning things around.” Biden hit some of the same talking points during a campaign event at a private residence in Albuquerque on Tuesday, noting “we’re building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up. We’re establishing our leadership in the world. We’re in a position where—this Bidenomics—we’ve created 13 million jobs in two years. That’s more than ever has occurred.”

NM Outdoor Rec division moves to Tourism

New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division, created in 2019, is moving from the Economic Development Department to the Tourism Department, following a Memorandum of Understanding signed late last week. In addition, the office has a new executive director, Ana Karina Armijo, who most recently served as marketing and tourism director for the Town of Taos. Armijo will start the new position on Sept. 18, according to a news release. “New Mexico has been my home for almost 30 years, and I’m so honored to serve in this role where I can champion a sustainable and equitable outdoor recreation economy that celebrates the diverse people, culture, and landscape of our beautiful state,” Armijo said in a statement. The division’s first director, Axie Navas, left the position at the end of last year. As SFR reported during ORD’s first year, its creation signaled the state’s interest in leveraging New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry as a major driver in economic development. The news release notes that NMEDD’s 20-year plan identifies outdoor recreation as one of its nine “target industries for economic diversification” and recommends situating outdoor recreation “closer” to tourism efforts. “By aligning the Office of Outdoor Recreation with the New Mexico Tourism Department, we will be able to forge new partnerships through existing marketing and development programs to ensure that residents and visitors alike can gain from the public health, environmental and economic benefits of sustainable outdoor recreation,” Acting Tourism Secretary Lancing Adams said in a statement. Both departments have had recent cabinet-level changes, with EDD Secretary Alicia J. Keyes retiring at the end of June, and Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer moving to Aging and Long-Term Services Department this week.

Rust armorer pleads not-guilty

Former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed yesterday waived arraignment and entered a written plea of not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Gutierrez-Reed is the sole defendant still facing charges stemming from the Oct. 21, 2021 fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Prosecutors dismissed charges against producer and actor Alec Baldwin last April. Last week, First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer denied a motion to dismiss charges against Gutierrez-Reed. In a filing in late June, prosecutors contended Gutierrez-Reed transferred a “small bag of cocaine” after she was interviewed by police and have alleged she was hungover on the day of the shooting, both statements Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers took issue with at last week’s hearing. Gutierrez-Reed’s waiver of arraignment lists the court’s conditions for her release, which includes submitting to drug testing in the state of Arizona, where she is located, and reporting the results of those tests to the special prosecutors and the court twice a month. Sommer yesterday set jury selection for the case on Dec. 5, with trial dates Dec. 6-15.

Feds fine Permian basin oil producer $5.5 million

Under a federal consent decree on behalf of both the New Mexico environment department and the US Environmental Protection Agency, New Mexico and Texas-based Mewbourne Oil Company has agreed to pay a $5.5 million penalty and to spend at least $4.6 million on projects to ensure it complies with state and federal clean air regulations. The United States government filed the consent decree and accompanying civil complaint on Wednesday, which alleges Mewbourne failed at more than 100 of its oil and gas production operations in New Mexico and Texas “to obtain required state and federal permits, failed to capture and control air emissions from storage vessels, and failed to comply with inspection, monitoring and record-keeping requirements,” a news release says. “Good air quality is essential to the health of our communities, and we need to ensure that oil and gas facilities are properly designed, maintained and monitored in order to meet national standards,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement. According to a news release, the EPA and NMED identified the violations through field investigations and flyover surveillance conducted in 2019, 2020 and 2022. “Compliance with air quality regulations is essential to ensure the health of our people and the protection of our environment,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. The federal government and state of New Mexico will equally share the $5.5 million fine, with New Mexico’s share going to the general fund. Officials say Mewbourne’s compliance with the terms of the consent decree will result in annual reductions of more than 9,900 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 1,300 tons of methane. The federal government will subsequently be taking public comment on the consent decree here.

Listen up

As of press time, Virgin Galactic’s first private astronaut mission was slated to launch this morning at 9 am MST, with Jon Goodwin, the first Olympian and second person diagnosed with Parkinson’s to go to space, on board, along with mother/daughter Keisha Schahaff and Anastatia Mayers, the first citizens of Antigua to go to space. Watch the Galactic 02 mission live at In a statement delivered with the company’s second quarter financial updates, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said today’s flight “will deliver a transformational experience for our first private astronauts, and we expect to continue broadening access to space with monthly flights thereafter. Our financial position remains strong, and we remain focused on scaling the business and delivering our Delta Class spaceships for commercial service in 2026.”

Re-imagining Los Alamos

Architectural Digest takes an in depth look at Oppenheimer’s other starring character: Los Alamos. The film’s production designer Ruth De Jong tells AD the town was the “main focus right off the bat,” with the film’s director Christopher Nolan wanting to shoot on location, rebuild the town and “and what was most important to him in our early conversations was this epic plateau vista, but we weren’t sure where we would be able to find it.” The film ultimately ended up filming at Ghost Ranch. According to the story, researcher Lauren Sandoval provided historical information to help De Jong’s work, but neither De Jong nor Nolan wanted to create a replica of Los Alamos as it was during Oppenheimer’s time there in the 1940s. “We weren’t making a documentary,” De Jong tells the magazine. “As much as we wanted to be accurate, we weren’t obsessed with making it a mirror. Both Chris and I wanted this to be a very transformative experience, and we wanted to push modernity.” The story also provides historical photo of Los Alamos as it actually looked.

Many nights at the opera

As recently noted, the Santa Fe Opera’s fifth production of the season, Orfeogarnered positive reviews from the New York Times, which called it the “highlight” of the season. The Dallas Morning News reviewer Scott Cantrell skipped Orfeo, but had critique aplenty for the stagings in both Dvorák’s Rusalka and Wagner’s Flying DutchmanWhile unimpressed with the “mental institution conceit” of the former as directed by Sir David Pountney, Cantrell had many plaudits for the singing, particularly by the apprentices. As for the Flying Dutchman, Director David Alden’s concept of the title character as the Dutchman “was inscrutable when it wasn’t downright perverse,” Cantrell writes. But, again, he offers praise for the singers, particularly the chorus under chorus master Susanne Sheston, also comprised of singers from the opera’s apprentice program. “Prepared by Sheston, they produce thrilling, finely focused walls of sound,” Cantrell writes. “Having just conducted Dutchman at the Met, the young German conductor Thomas Guggeis drew vivid, responsive playing from the orchestra in the Aug. 5 performance. But at least in my seat, directly in the line of fire, trumpet and trombones occasionally could have been less aggressive.” The Classical Review was similarly nonplussed by this season’s Wagner offering (but seemed to enjoy this season’s Tosca by Puccini more than the Times’ reviewer, and also had high praise for Orfeo). You can find SFR’s coverage of the season, which runs through Aug. 26, here.

Rain or shine

The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance for showers and thunderstorms today and tonight, after 3 pm and before 9 pm, respectively. Otherwise, it should be mostly sunny, with a high temperature near 87 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the morning.

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