Morning Word

Governor Visits Australia for Hydrogen Summit

Families sue US Forest Service over flash flooding deaths

Governor heads down under for hydrogen summit

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has traveled to Australia to attend the Asia Pacific Hydrogen 2023 Summit and meet with manufacturing companies interested in expanding to New Mexico, her office announced Friday. The governor plans to speak on a panel Thursday titled “Regional Collaboration & Trade from Asia-Pacific to the World.” Lujan Grisham said earlier this month that she remained committed to developing hydrogen infrastructure in New Mexico even in the face of the US Department of Energy snubbing the state as a “regional clean hydrogen hub.” She plans to make an “economic development announcement around clean hydrogen during the mission,” a press release says. The state’s delegation to the event includes First Gentleman Manny Cordova; Deputy Chief of Operations Caroline Buerkle; Environment Department Secretary James Kenney; Economic Development Department Director Mark Roper; New Mexico Partnership President Melinda Allen; New Mexico Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Rob Black; Avangrid Director of Innovation Enrique Bosch, XTO Energy/Exxon Mobil Issues and Advocacy Representative Jennifer Bradfute; and Western States and Tribal Nations Energy Initiative Chairman Jason Sandel.

Families sue Forest Service over flash flooding deaths

The family representatives of three people who died in a flash flood resulting from the the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire allege in a federal lawsuit the US Forest Service was negligent in its management of the prescribed burn and failed to subsequently close roads and otherwise prevent risk in the flooding that followed. Brad Cummings, the family representative for Jimmy and Linda Jane Cummings; and Gregory Greenshaw, representative of the estate of Betty Lou Greenshaw, filed the lawsuit Oct. 11 in US District Court in New Mexico. Jimmy and Linda Cummings, both 62, and Greenshaw, 84, all from west Texas, died on June 21, 2022 when a flood from the burn scar overtook their cabin near Tecolote Creek. Their families argue in the court case they filed a claim with the US Department of Agriculture for wrongful death and property damage, but have now filed the lawsuit because the agency did not provide a settlement or denial as required by law within six months. Attorney Daniel Walker told the Albuquerque Journal the victims wouldn’t have traveled to the cabin had they been warned of the dangers. It was their understanding, “and that of the other people in the area that it was safe to be there, even after the fire,” Walker told the newspaper.

Embattled cannabis grower moves to Estancia Valley

Nearly three years after a federal raid for illegal cannabis cultivation on the Navajo Nation and allegations of labor trafficking, Dineh Benally is growing cannabis south of Estancia with two cultivation permits from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, Searchlight New Mexico reports. Although Benally’s problems on the reservation have been repeatedly reported in the media, an agency spokesperson said RLD was “not aware of the investigations into [Benally’s] business prior to licensure,” but its compliance officers subsequently found eight alleged violations of the state’s cannabis regulations during a site visit to the former pumpkin farm, according to an Oct. 12 notification letter sent to Benally’s company. Among the listed violations: Benally’s operation “‘far exceeded’ its legal plant count; there was ‘rubbish found throughout the facility’ and ‘evidence of pests on cannabis plants’; he had ‘not conducted a single quality assurance test’; he hadn’t developed required policies and procedures for employees; and the facility lacked mandatory security measures,” Searchlight reported. The state says if Benally doesn’t correct the violations, he faces potential fines and the loss of his cannabis license.

Health care advocates target hospital costs

Local health care providers and activists say New Mexico hospitals could better serve patients by switching to global budgeting systems. It’s just one of the efforts members of the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign is pushing to combat soaring hospital expenses. Coalition members convened Sunday afternoon to discuss their goal—a statewide system of guaranteed affordable health care coverage—in conjunction with Santa Fe NOW and the local NAACP’s presentation of the film American Hospitals: Healing a Broken System. Doris Page, chair of the local NAACP’s health committee and a retired physician, told attendees the group wants “a health care system that truly focuses on improving the health of our patients and the communities without the pressure of our profit-driven system.” The state of Maryland tried global budgeting—a alternative model which pays hospitals a fixed amount based on operating costs—and saved saved $1.4 billion in Medicare spending at its hospitals between 2014 and 2018.

Listen up

On the newest episode of New Mexico In Focus, New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Arsenio Romero responds to a push from Attorney General Raúl Torrez to “take over” the state’s response to the Yazzie-Martinez education ruling. Romero, who says the AG has not reached out to have a conversation on the topic, touts the state’s recent investments in preschool and college programs as examples of its progress in improving education access for all students.

Research grant aims to solve veggie woes

A New Mexico State University researcher will join forces with scientists at several other universities for a four-year, $6 billion project to study one of the most common plant pathogens in the United States. Phytophthora blight is the biggest threat to the watermelon industry in the nation and also causes crop losses for cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, snap beans, lima beans and even chile. Soum Sanogo, the professor of fungal plant pathology at NMSU who leads the project, says the fungus is “almost like COVID—we get variants and it’s able to survive every year.” Sanogo will work with an interdisciplinary team of more than a dozen researchers from University of Illinois, Alcorn State University, University of Florida, University of Arizona, Texas A&M University and Rutgers University.

Time for a Texas/New Mexico road trip

Earth Trekkers’ advice for a big Texas/New Mexico road trip suggests this time of year, specifically October and November, as one of the best seasons for a visit to the southernmost national parks. “In Guadalupe Mountains National Park, fall colors appear in mid-October, peaking by the end of October and sometimes lasting into early November. During this time, the average high in Guadalupe Mountains is in the low 70′s, making this a gorgeous time of year to visit this national park. The temperature will be similar in Big BendCarlsbad Caverns, [and] White Sands,” the travel website writes. While in Carlsbad, it suggests dinner on the second story of the Trinity Hotel Restaurant. And when in White Sands, it warns, “Dunes Drive can close for up to 3 hours during missile testing at White Sands Missile Range. Usually, park staff is notified within 2 weeks of a missile testing, but in some instances, they may only get 24 hours notice.” Good to know. The nearby Trinity Site, the location where the US government detonated the atomic bomb built in Los Alamos, was open this weekend for one of two annual tour periods, and thousands of visitors passed through its gates, including many who made the trek after seeing Oppenheimer on the big screen this summer.

Golden and glowing

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high temperature near 72 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Tomorrow, there’s a slight chance of rain with a high around 67.

Thanks for reading! The (Substitute) Word thinks these savory pumpkin and apple griddle cakes from Taos chef Wilks Medley sound delicious and autumnal.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.