Morning Word

Report: Steep Grid Upgrades Needed for Community Solar

“Rust” prosecutors object to motion for new trial, release for former armorer

Community solar faces steep upgrade costs

The Albuquerque Journal reports on a presentation delivered at yesterday’s Public Regulation Commission meeting (starting at the 54:48 mark or so) from Arthur O’Donnell, the PRC’s director of policy administration, and Meredith Tidwell, a US Department of Energy clean energy fellow, regarding community solar. The state Supreme Court earlier this month ruled against utility companies challenging the PRC’s rules for community solar, which Southwestern Public Service Company, El Paso Electric and Public Service Company of New Mexico had appealed. The law allows residents who can’t install solar energy themselves—apartment tenants for instance—to buy into solar programs and receive the cost benefits. Yesterday’s presentation indicates the power grid will require $120 million for upgrades to accommodate community solar, largely in PNM’s operating area. O’Donnell says as of yet, no community solar projects have received the go-ahead to operate. The PRC at the same time is soliciting feedback on a variety of questions related to proposed rule changes for community solar.

State opposes Rust armorer emergency motion

State prosecutors who recently won an involuntary manslaughter conviction in their case against former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed say her emergency motion for release, filed March 15, is a “threadbare motion” based on “the erroneous distillation” of a recent New Mexico Supreme Court that reversed a child abuse conviction on the basis of a jury instruction error. In their response, filed this week, special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis object to the request for a new trial and release and parse the reasons why the case cited by Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer Jason Bowles (State of New Mexico v. Taylor) do not apply in her case, noting the complexity of the jury instructions in the Taylor case, which involved two daycare workers charged with and convicted of reckless child abuse after they failed to notice two children in their care had been left inside a motor vehicle on a hot day, resulting in the children’s deaths. “And/or” instructions to the jury in that case were deemed confusing by the court in its ruling. In Gutierrez-Reed’s case, prosecutors write, the jury instructions “were neither confusing nor legally insufficient. The defendant’s assertion that all jury instructions containing the conjunction ‘and/or’ makes them facially invalid is simply not the holding of the court in Taylor. While the court makes clear that the use of ‘and/or’ should be avoided in jury instructions, the test for determining whether instructions are legally insufficient is far more complex.”

DOH encourages residents to assess diabetes risk

In advance of next week’s Diabetes Alert Day (March 26), the state health department yesterday issued a news release urging residents to assess their own risk for the disease. “Diabetes is a disease that can develop when your blood sugar is too high,” Christine Brown, diabetes prevention and control program outreach and education manager, says in a statement. “With time but no effort to try to prevent it, uncontrolled blood sugar causes other health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems and kidney disease.” The state’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program estimates between 2020 and 2022, of the state’s 2 million residents, approximately 255,000 adults had diabetes and over 587,000 New Mexican adults had pre-diabetes. Health Secretary Patrick Allen says he’s one of them. “I am among many New Mexicans managing Type 2 diabetes,” Allen says in a statement. “It is a life changing experience that requires being constantly aware of how you feel, what you eat, regularly monitoring your blood sugar and more.” DOH says residents can take a quick, free online Type 2 diabetes risk test to assess their risks. Risk factors include: a family history; race/ethnicity; higher body weight; increasing age; smoking; lack of physical activity; high blood pressure; and a history of gestational diabetes. Pre-diabetes, DOH says, “is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.” Pre-diabetes can be reversed but, without intervention, can turn into Type 2 diabetes within five years.

Sen. Luján introduces child labor protection law

As national Agriculture Week (March 17-23) comes to a close, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, has introduced legislation aimed at protecting children who are part of the agricultural workforce: The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment in Agriculture (CARE) Act. According to Luján’s office, agriculture is the only industry that has labor laws allowing children as young as 12 to work with no restriction on hours. Among other provisions, the proposed law would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act and bring the age and work-hour standards for children working in ag up to the standards of other industries. Numerous labor, food and children’s organizations back the legislation. “It’s amazing to us that discriminatory loopholes, which allow very young kids to work 70 and 80 hours a week, performing back-breaking labor on farms, have been allowed to exist since the 1930s,” Child Labor Coalition Director Reid Maki says in a statement. “The impact of the exemptions on farmworker children educationally is very harmful and their health is at great risk from agricultural dangers.” The bill also would raise penalties for child labor violations. “With their whole future ahead of them, our country must do better protecting children working in the agriculture industry,” Luján said in a statement. “Across the country, thousands of children are working under hazardous conditions in the agriculture sector, risking their health and education.”

Listen up

The City of Santa Fe’s new historian, Andrew Lovato, kicks off his city historian storytelling series on his regular Our Santa Fe radio program on KSFR, 101.1 FM, talking with Scott Seldin, author of My Out of the Blue Stories. Among other topics, Seldin discusses moving to Santa Fe with his wife and 12-year-old son because “it felt like home.” Later, he says, he wrote about Santa Fe and why it’s known as the City Different—its natural beauty, culture and art, for instance. But, “we are also the City Different because of something that drew us here and keeps us here or has kept us here for generations,” Seldin writes, “a sacred spirit that fills the deepest part of us.”

The Texas connection

Speaking of moving to New Mexico, a story appearing on the website for Lubbock, Texas radio station FMX 94.5 notes Texans are moving here, and “not just for legal weed.” Staffer Renee Raven writes: “l love my life in Texas. My family and my career are here, and I have no intention of moving anytime soon. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the cacti looks a little greener on the other side of the border—our border with New Mexico. And I am absolutely not alone. Many Texans are opting to move west to The Land Of Enchantment. And if you’re thinking it’s legal cannabis, that’s actually at the bottom of most people’s priorities.” So what is the draw? Lower property taxes, better climate, fewer allergens and more moderate politics (fewer Texans was not on the list). The story also cites a 2023 story from KRQE that shows Texas supplied the largest number of newcomers to New Mexico in 2022—almost 17,000—but nearly the same number of people moved from New Mexico to Texas, so that’s a draw. On a less existential topic,Travel Pulse has a run-down of new travel trends and their new travel-trend nicknames, including “set-jetting,” which is visiting locales from television shows and movies, such as New Mexico to check out locales from Oppenheimer. Other trends: “babymooning” (vacationing in advance of childbirth) and “dry-tripping,” which is traveling while sober, in case your mind went to some other place. Speaking of healthy travel, mindbodygreen compiles “wellness travel” in Santa Fe via spas, hikes and ranches, noting Santa Fe “is a magical, mystical place…Its stunning, rugged high desert landscape makes it a hotbed for nature enthusiasts and hikers as well as creatives looking to be inspired.”

Meet the Simpsons

Forbes magazine spotlights four ceramicists from Santa Clara Pueblo: Rose, Rina, Roxanne and Rose B. Simpson. The multi-generational artists will be featured in an exhibition surveying Rose B. Simpson’s work opening March 23 and running through Sept. 1 at Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Florida. Forbes notes Rose’s work is in such high demand these days she often has to say no to requests. But this show offered opportunities she couldn’t pass up, such as showing her work alongside that of her mother Roxanne Swentzell; her grandmother Rina Swentzell; and her great-grandmother Rose Naranjo. “I don’t feel fully understood until I feel like people can see my work in context, and my context is so much community and family,” Rose tells Forbes. “My work is only one of the words in a sentence that is my matrilineal heritage.” Forbes also talks to Swentzell about her daughter’s career—among other accomplishments, Rose Simpson was one of four contemporary artists to recently receive a new award from the Ruth Foundation for the Arts consisting of $100,000 in unrestricted funds; is in the process of creating massive sculptures for New York City parks; and is part of the 2024 Whitney Biennial (which opened this week and runs through Aug. 11). “I nurtured in her that you’re capable of more than you know and to not be afraid of learning, of learning more,” Swentzell says in response to Forbes’ question about her influence on Rose. “I homeschooled my kids; the way I homeschooled them was to take adventures, to explore the world. Try this. Let’s try that. We don’t know how to do this, but let’s try it out. The fear of exploring or going further was diminished because she had that ‘go for it’ mentality. That’s what I wanted to give them—you can do it.”

We call this spring

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 64 degrees and north wind around 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Look for a mixed weekend ahead, with temps in the low 60s Saturday as the wind picks up a tad, before temperatures tumble to the low 50s on Sunday, with an 80% chance of rain and wind gusts up to 40 mph. That rain just might turn into a little snow Sunday night.

Thanks for reading! The Word can’t wait to read this essay by Joyce Carol Oates’ neighbor…possibly while eating this salty butterscotch pudding because it’s the weekend! Speaking of time, Morning Word will return on Tuesday, March 26.

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