Morning Word

NM Enacts Clean Fuel Standards

State cannabis sales exceed $1 billion

NM enacts clean-fuel standards

Under House Bill 41, signed yesterday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico became the fourth state to enact clean fuel standards intended to improve air quality and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. In its rankings last year, the American Lung Association gave failing marks to several New Mexico counties’ air quality, with the transportation sector cited as the main culprit. The law creates a “clean fuel market,” through which credits can be bought, sold and traded depending on the carbon intensity of the transportation fuel. As delineated in a news release from the governor’s office, now that the legislation has been signed, the state environment department will kick off a rule-making process with the Environment Improvement Board with an eye toward creating rules by July 2026, as required in the law. An advisory group will be announced in early May and begin meeting this July. “Under the program, at least 50% of net credit revenue from participating utilities must be spent on transportation decarbonization in low-income and underserved communities,” co-sponsor state Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, says in a statement. “As we transition away from higher carbon fuels, this legislation ensures that our most vulnerable experience the benefits cleaner transportation where they live.” Advocates say the clean fuel standards market will bring at least 1,600 full-time jobs and nearly 2,300 construction jobs to the state. “Decreasing air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially around transportation corridors, makes for healthier, thriving communities while addressing the serious impacts of climate change,” co-sponsor Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, says in a statement. “Thanks to this legislation becoming law, I expect to see a measurable, positive impact on both our health and our economy.”

Safety expert: Rust armorer “was just an employee”

A weapons expert testifying yesterday in the ongoing trial of former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed demonstrated—if unwittingly—the potent threat of firearms. Frank Koucky told jurors his review of the evidence indicated Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin had violated firearm safety rules on set. At the request of defense lawyer Jason Bowles, Koucky also revealed a gun he had brought to court for demonstrations, pointing it toward the ceiling and in Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer’s direction, raising objections from prosecutor Kari Morrissey. “Everyone’s nervous because you have not demonstrated to us that they’re unloaded,” Marlowe Sommer told the witness. “So before you start showing us the weapons, make sure they’re unloaded.” Gutierrez-Reed faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering connected to the Oct. 21, 2021 on-set fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Prosecutors say the then-24-year-old’s negligence led to the use of live ammo in the gun Baldwin was holding; he has said he did not pull the trigger and also faces involuntary manslaughter charges in a trial that starts in July. Yesterday’s testimony also included experts from the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, which issued an excoriating report about safety on the set, and fined Rust Productions, LLC the maximum amount allowed by state law. “The citation was issued because we determined that the management team was responsible for a series of failures that accumulated in an accident,” Senior Compliance Officer Lorenzo Montoya said. Gutierrez-Reed was mentioned in the report, he added, but “in terms of who we identify as members of management and who we consider responsible, she’s not,” he said. “She’s just an employee.”

State cannabis sales top $1 billion

In advance of next month’s two-year anniversary of legal adult cannabis sales in New Mexico, the state yesterday reported combined adult-use and medical sales have exceeded $1 billion. “This is a huge milestone for New Mexico’s cannabis industry,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Nearly two years after beginning sales, New Mexico is on the map as a premier hub for legal and safe cannabis and the thriving business community that comes with it.” State data reports more than $678.4 million worth of adult-use cannabis products and $331.6 million in medical products since April 1, 2022, with more than 21 million transactions and $75 million in cannabis excise taxes. According to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Bureau’s Cannabis Reporting Online Portal, Albuquerque remains the top city for cannabis sales, with more than $202 million in adult-use products being sold since legalization. Sunland Park had $57.4 million in adult-use sales. Santa Fe has had the fourth-highest adult-use sales since legalization: approximately $44.6 million, coming in behind Sunland Park and Las Cruces. As of the start of March, the state had issued 2,873 cannabis licenses, including 1,050 retailers, 878 manufacturers and 459 micro producers.

Mexican wolves need “true recovery,” advocates say

The Mexican wolf population continued to grow in 2023—the eighth straight year—according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which yesterday reported that an annual survey shows a minimum of 257 Mexican wolves distributed across Arizona and New Mexico, a 6% increase from the year prior. The agency also reported documentation of at least 56 packs at the end of 2023: 36 in New Mexico and 20 in Arizona; and a minimum of 138 pups were born last year, with at least 86 surviving until the end of the year—a 62% survival rate compared with the average 50% survival rate for wild wolf populations. “It’s encouraging to see success across the board with our recovery efforts,” Brady McGee, US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Recovery coordinator, says in a statement. “Having fostered Mexican wolves survive, disperse, pair up, breed and start packs of their own tells us that fostering is working. These genetically diverse wolves, which came from captivity as pups and were placed into wild dens, play a vital role in boosting the genetic diversity of the wild population.” Wildlife advocates, however, say the small increase actually indicates the ongoing challenges the program presents. “It’s better for the landscape to have more wolves, no doubt,” WildEarth Guardians Southwest Wildlife Advocate Chris Smith says in a statement. “But we want true recovery. And until the US Fish and Wildlife Service starts doing more for genetic health and until New Mexico and Arizona allow wolves north of Interstate 40, we won’t get there.” Smith’s latter point alludes to the high-profile case of Asha, a wolf who has twice traveled outside the so-called Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area and been relocated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which said in December it plans to release her into the wild this spring or summer.

Listen up

“It’s hard to believe” Deborah Jackson Taffa’s newly published memoir, Whiskey Tender, is her first book, writes Kristen Martin in a Washington Post review, partially because Taffa’s credentials include directing the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA in creative writing program, but “but more because of her textured prose and gift for storytelling.” Taffa’s book grapples with coming of age in Farmington and her “identity crisis” as part of a “mixed-tribe, mixed-race family” (her father is Quechan and Laguna Pueblo, while her mother has mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry). Taffa tells SFR she always wanted to write the story of her upbringing, in part to fill a gap in the literary canon. “I’ve never seen a comprehensive coming-of-age memoir written by a Native person,” Taffa says. “They say you should write the book that you need, and for me, that’s the story of a Native kid growing up and leaving home.” Taffa will read from her book and discuss it with IAIA MFA mentor and author Pam Houston at 6 pm tonight at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St.) and online via Zoom.

Tommy Orange on the challenge of a second novel

Also on the IAIA-author front, Creative Writing MFA alumnus and program mentor Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes), whose debut novel There There received the 2019 American Book ward and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, amongst other accolades, has a new novel out, Wandering Stars, a prequel and sequel that conjures “the ancestors of the family readers first fell in love with in There There—warriors, drunks, outlaws, addicts—asking what it means to be the children and grandchildren of massacre,” the publisher writes. Orange discussed the new work recently on the New York Times Book Review podcast, and discusses with Esquire magazine the challenges of following up a blockbuster debut: “There is a kind of spectacle with the sophomore effort,” he says. “It’s interesting whether it succeeds or fails. In wanting to write a different sort of book, I knew I would be sacrificing the propulsive nature of an easily identifiable plot with a gun appearing early on to drive the reader through. It was just more important to me to try and write something new than to figure out how to replicate what ‘worked’ the first time.” Orange also gave his own book list to Elle magazine for its “Shelf Life” series, which includes Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison as the book that made him “weep uncontrollably,”; Moby Dick as the novel he swears he’ll finish one day; and Songs on Endless Repeat by Anthony Veasna, which Orange says he read in one sitting.

Tales of two cities

Parade magazine includes both Santa Fe and Albuquerque on its list of 115 best weekend getaways, the criteria for which seems to be places “that are easily accessible for a weekend and give you the feeling of a true vacation—even if it’s only for a few days.” In Santa Fe, the magazine recommends the usual fare: visits to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the famous Santa Fe Opera (presumably during the summer). The story endorses Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi as “an ideal retreat” as it’s “just steps from the city’s historic plaza and a short drive away from Canyon Road, Taos and Bandelier National Monument” (.08 miles, 69.9 miles and 40.6 miles, respectively, but who’s counting?). In Albuquerque, Parade points toward the city’s affordability and accessibility, as well as its reputation as a year-round hot-air balloon mecca. Afar magazine also has New Mexico on the mind. As we recently noted, Afar recommends Santa Fe as a May destination, and now also has a roundup of the best places to eat and drink in Albuquerque, a city it characterizes as “a food lover’s dream” and “more than just ‘chilelandia.’” Author Aislyn Greene says she recently visited Albuquerque to record an episode of Afar’s Unpacked podcast. “I met local historians, explored the Paseo del Bosque trail, and even interviewed a hot air balloon pilot—while flying in a balloon,” Greene writes, “but the narrative that surprised me the most was around food.” One of those surprises, she notes, is the city’s thriving Vietnamese culinary scene. The story includes a compelling shout-out for Coda Bakery’s bánh mì sandwiches—maybe we too shall get away to Albuquerque soon.

High and dry

The National Weather Service forecasts a partly sunny day, with a high temperature near 56 degrees and southeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Tomorrow may bring a return of snow and rain.

Thanks for reading! The Word distracted herself from Super Tuesday by submerging herself in the winning photos from the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition.

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