Morning Word

Judge rules lawsuit over oil and gas pollution can proceed

City to consider LGBTQ anti-bullying resolution

Judge: Oil and gas lawsuit against state can continue

First Judicial District Judge Matthew Wilson yesterday rejected a motion from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration and several state agencies to dismiss a lawsuit brought by environmental, Indigenous and activist groups that alleges the state is violating its constitution by allowing oil and gas pollution. Specifically, Atencio v. State of New Mexico,\ is the first to challenge the state for violating the pollution control clause of the New Mexico Constitution, Article 20, Section 21. “Oil and gas pollution has devastated sacred places across the Greater Chaco Landscape, including my family’s land,” Mario Atencio, a plaintiff in the case from Eastern Navajo Agency, says in a statement. “The health and wellbeing of my community is at risk due to the degradation of the land, spills of toxic liquid waste and air pollution from fossil fuel extraction. This is a flagrant violation of our constitutional rights.” In late March, Wilson allowed the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce to also intervene in the case. In April, Wilson heard motions to dismiss from the Legislature, as well as the governor, alongside Environment Secretary James Kenney and Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Sarah Cottrell Propst. In his ruling denying the motion to dismiss the suit, Wilson did side with the Legislature in its motion asserting immunity from the defendants’ civil rights claims. Members of the groups bringing the suit cheered Wilson’s ruling yesterday. “This failed attempt to squash our case shows just how closely state and industry have partnered up to prop up the fossil fuel economy, and just how urgently we deserve our day in court,” Julia Bernal, executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance, says in a statement.

Santa Fe lawmakers to consider anti-bullying proposal

At its meeting tomorrow night, the Santa Fe City Council will hear for the first time a proposal for a resolution establishing anti-bullying zones and safe spaces for LGBTQ people in all city-owned buildings and offices. The resolution, co-sponsored by Mayor Alan Webber and City Councilors Sig Lindell and Alma Castro, calls for signage that would promote the anti-bullying regulations. According to a fiscal impact report, the resolution, if adopted, would etablish the city’s “commitment to supporting LGBTQIA2+ community members, queer youth, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (”BIPOC”), and other marginalized communities.” The unspecified funding to create signage would be the responsibility of the city manager’s office, which would also create the anti-bullying policies, and would be paid for out of the Office of Equity and Inclusion’s budget. A memo accompanying the proposed resolution from Casey Dalbor, the city’s business growth manager, notes City Manager John Blair’s office also would create a “city-wide employee training program in support of safe-space and anti-bullying policies and regulations,” and to respond to incidents of bullying and harassment within city offices and buildings.

PRC can change electric co-op rates, court rules

The state Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld the Public Regulation Commission’s rejection in 2018 of a $1.25 million rate increase proposal from the Socorro Electric Cooperative and its adoption of a different rate structure. According to a news release, the SEC had argued the PRC exceeded its authority, which it said was limited to only approving or denying rates, not redesigning and setting them. The court disagreed. “We conclude that the Commission’s decision to deny SEC’s proposed revenue requirement is consistent with the Commission’s duty to set just and reasonable rates,” the opinion written by Justice Julie J. Vargas says. “Essentially, the Commission determined that SEC was not entitled to a revenue increase that would attain all SEC’s financial objectives because those objectives were outweighed by the interests of the public and of SEC’s members and customers.” As outlined in the news release, the state’s electric co-ops, unlike investor-owned utilities, are owned by their members, who elect a Board of Trustees. In the case of SEC, it provides electricity to approximately 8,500 customers in Catron, Cibola, Sierra, Socorro and Valencia counties. However, the SEC’s CEO testified the rate increases were not necessary for the co-op’s financial well being. Moreover, state law allows the PRC to become involved once a certain number of protests have been filed to determine if the rates are “just and reasonable.” If the PRC finds they are not, “then the Commission may fix just and reasonable rates for that cooperative,” the Court writes, noting state law does not distinguish between the PRC’s authority for rulemaking when it comes to electric co-ops and investor-owned utilities.

SFPS announces new principal, school calendar

Jessica Garcia will temporarily take over as principal for Amy Biehl Community School for the 2024-2025 school year, succeeding Felicia Torres, who is taking a leave of absence. Garcia has served as assistant principal at Piñon Elementary since 2021, following working as dean of students at Nina Otero Community School. In a statement, SFPS Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez says the district is “delighted” to have Garcia as Amy Biehl’s principal, noting “she brings the experience of having taught at Amy Biehl for eight years before serving as an assistant principal at Piñon Elementary School…We are confident that Jessica will continue doing what she’s done so well for the Santa Fe Public Schools: promote and facilitate academic success for all students and staff.” He also wished Torrez well during her leave of absence, noting three of the school’s sixth grade students had advanced to the National History Day contest in Maryland. “We look forward to her return in 2025-26,” he said. In a statement, Garcia says she’s “enthusiastic” about returning to Amy Biehl. “I care deeply about building strong relationships and creating a family environment among our students, staff and families. By working together and focusing on student achievement, I know that we will provide excellent learning experiences for every student in our care.” SFPS recently announced its schedule for the next school year, amidst the unresolved lawsuit over a state rule requiring 185 classroom days. SFPS next school year begins Aug. 9, and includes 175 school days.

Listen up

Psychiatrist Don Fineberg continues his Opera InSight video series, bringing—yes—a psychological lens to the Santa Fe Opera’s 2024 season. Thus far, viewers can watch Fineberg’s analysis of La Traviata, which opens the season June 28, as well as Don GiovanniThe Righteous and Der Rosenkavalier. “It has been said that the way you can tell the difference between an operatic tragedy and a comedy is whether it ends with someone getting married or buried,” Fineberg says at the outset of his La Traviata talk. “The reason you sometimes have to wait until the end is because along the way in great opera, there are light-hearted moments in dramatic ‘opera seria’ and, similarly, there are serious, even violent parts, of comedic ‘opera buffa,’ and this season is no different.”

Santa Fe summer

Santa Fe lands on the Washington Post’s list of “10 destinations that hit their absolute peak in summer.” For one thing, the story claims, the city stays relatively “cool,” with Lindsay Messina, co-founder of Fioraé Luxury Travel, forecasting average high temperatures in the 80s (this used to be true, at any rate). “All summer long, the city teems with art shows, live music, outdoor movies, artisan markets, and beer, food and wine festivals.” Meanwhile, “once the sun goes down, look up; Santa Fe is a premiere stargazing destination.” The Post recommends visiting one of the state’s “dark sky parks,” certified by the International Dark Sky Association, such as Capulin Volcano National Monument or Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Or hop on Sky Railways’ StarGazer train, which includes unobstructed views of the night sky from the open-air cars, along with a professional astronomer and “special adventures” for unique celestial events. The forthcoming Santa Fe Indian Market (Aug. 17-18) also receives a shout-out, with the Post noting that in addition to hosting more than 1,000 artists from over 200 tribes, “Indigenous musicians will also perform on stages in Santa Fe Plaza; models will strut their stuff in a fashion show; and food vendors will sell fry bread, Frito pies and Pueblo stews” throughout the weekend. True enough. Speaking of summer, don’t miss SFR’s 2024 Summer Guide, which published last week, and has summer suggestions and listings for all of your warm-weather proclivities.

And then some

New Mexico lands in third spot on The Travel’s very specific and alliterative list of “seven scenic states to retire in an RV,” with a particular shout-out to Deming, due to its “many beautiful parks, wineries and…art museum.” Moreover, New Mexico’s “low cost of living, relatively affordable healthcare, competitively low gas prices and senior RV resorts make it easier for seniors to enjoy an active RV retirement,” The Travel writes.

Lifestyle website Best Life, meanwhile, includes Taos on its roundup of “12 iconic US landscapes where you can take breathaking photos.” Specifically, Amber Everywhere blogger Amber Haggerty notes visitors will experience “first-hand” the landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe. “Photographers capture the incredible Taos Mountains, the Rio Grande and sometimes even a landscape dotted with hot air balloons in the early mornings,” Haggerty tells Best Life. “Sunrises in Taos are especially breathtaking, with fiery reds from the desert sand against the distinctive shapes of the adobe homes and cathedrals.”

Lastly, for now, US and UK tourism/travel groups Brand USATravel Gossip and Gold Medal present a Route 66 edition of its Agents on the Open Road: RoadTrips USA series, with multiple stops in New Mexico, including a recommended lunch stop at Dog House Drive In, featured in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

Stormy weather, cozy heart

The National Weather Service forecasts a 40% chance for more precipitation today, with scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, it will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 83 degrees coupled with north wind around 10 mph. NWS shows a slight chance for more isolated storms tonight before 9 pm. Lovely as the cooling rain has been, the state heads back into hot weather starting tomorrow.

Thanks for reading! The Word would not have anticipated Sufjan Stevens’ album Illinoise would become a Broadway musical, but she enjoyed the cast performance on Colbert.

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