Despite the lack of progress in Washington, there will be no furlough of 55 civilian state workers for the New Mexico National Guard. Governor Susana Martinez's administration is halting any such furlough by using state dollars to cover their salaries this week while the federal government shutdown goes on. A National Guard spokesman says the state will pay more than 53-thousand dollars to cover the federal share of salaries. Should the shutdown continue into next week, funding sources will be reviewed.
Santa Fe City Council holds a special meeting tomorrow to review proposed city charter amendments. Such changes are likely to be the focus of a special election held concurrently with the March 2014 municipal election. Among changes being considered is an expansion of mayoral power along with designating the post a fulltime position with higher pay and barring other employment. Another meeting at the end of the month will seek to codify the final charter amendment questions to be put before voters.
Western Refining Company of Gallup is now saying batches of contaminated gasoline were delivered to Giant stations in Santa Fe, Gallup, Farmington, Kirtland, Jamestown as well as Albuquerque. Originally, the refiner said it sent water-contaminated fuel to two gas stations in Albuquerque, but later conceded the number was 11. It says at least 100-motorists complained of serious mechanical issues after filling up with the tainted gasoline. Western Refining says it will reimburse anyone with a legitimate claim.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory will begin full shut down preparations one week from tomorrow if there is no further progress on the budget stalemate in Washington. Lab Director Charles McMillan notified LANL's 10-thousand employees of the closure in a Wednesday memo. A small number of workers would be retained to keep nuclear materials secure. The budget impasse has already sidelined the Lab's shipments of nuclear waste to southern New Mexico's WIPP site. Sandia Labs has previously stated their eight-thousand employees will be furloughed as of October 21st.
Officials at Sandia Labs have announced that they will be forced to begin to shut down and furlough much of the lab’s workforce by Oct. 21 if the federal budget impasse is not resolved. LANL officials, too, have told their employees that the lab has a limited ability to stay open during the government shutdown. The two labs employ some 18-thousand New Mexicans. New Mexico’s congressional delegation has called on the U-S Department of Energy Secretary to offer Lab workers assurances they will be compensated if furloughed.
Voters in Albuquerque are going to the polls today to elect a mayor and city council members as well as weighing in on ten bond issues. Incumbent Mayor Richard Berry is facing two challengers. If no candidate pulls 50-percent of the total vote, the top two placeholders will square off in a November 19th run-off election. That date is also set for a special Duke City election on an ordinance that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. If there is no mayoral run-off, however, the abortion matter will be decided by a mail-in ballot only.
New Mexico's federal employees sidelined by the government shutdown have been assured they will receive any back pay owed them. Such an assurance can only be made by an act of Congress and New Mexico representative Michele Lujan Grisham co-sponsored such legislation that passed the House unanimously Saturday. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan also sent a letter to the Department of Energy Secretary that stresses that retroactive pay is intended for all federally-contracted workers at both the state’s two National Laboratories.
In today's feature items, we speak with PNM about the energy resources they're putting forward as replacements once they de-commission two of the San Juan Generating Station's four coal-fired units. The Santa Fe's energy specialist joins us to talk about next week's climate change presentation at Santa Fe Community College. Those items and more plus 60 Seconds with Christopher Hagen.
Electric utility PNM appears at the Public Regulation Commission this morning to present a summary of its power planning supply. PNM is preparing ecision to de-commission two of its four coal-fired units at the San Juan Generating Station by 2018, representing 340 megawatts of power. PNM’s current analysis has them proposing a mix of energy sources; 40 megawatts derived from solar, 177 megawatts from gas and 134 megawatts of nuclear power from the Palo Verde Nuclear Facility in Arizona.
In today's features, we catch up with Congressman Ben Ray Luján as the impasse over the federal budget and the shutdown of government endures a 3rd day. We also hear about a new environmental study on the deleterious effects of fracking in New Mexico. Those items and more plus 60 Seconds with Christopher Hagen.
A just-released federal audit of the Los Alamos Laboratory faults its radioactive waste treatment operation for cost overruns and missed deadlines. Back in 2004, the facility was to be rebuilt over a five year period. The report cites that though some 56 million-dollars has already been spent in preparation, no actual work has begun. It's now thought that the project is unlikely to be finished until 2020 at well more than double the initial cost estimates. The Department of Energy says the project is just one example among many indicating management inefficiencies at LANL.
In today's features after our local news: Downtown Santa Fe will soon have six new monitoring wells drilled to determine to what extent underground contaminants may be lurking or on the move. We also speak with our state's Tourism Secretary about Balloon Fiesta's major role in New Mexico's annual take of tourist dollars. Those items and more plus 60 Seconds with Christopher Hagen.
New wells are to be drilled in downtown Santa Fe to check for groundwater contamination. The Journal Santa Fe says the City will work with the state Environment Department on the project with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. A decades-old underground petroleum plume was found some years ago as construction began on downtown's new county courthouse. More recently, workers at the Public Education Dept. building have complained of exposure to contaminants in basement offices.
In today's features: A conversation with Dr. JR Damron, chair of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange on this first day of enrollment. And a talk with Fred Nathan, executive director of Santa Fe-based Think New Mexico. Those items and more plus 60 Seconds with Christopher Hagen.
Congressman Ben Ray Luján is decrying the federal government shutdown forced by Republican resistance to the nation's Affordable Care Act. Luján's statement says in part, "The longer the Tea Party shutdown lasts, the longer the people of New Mexico will pay the price." Effects of the shutdown will be felt immediately here in New Mexico with its many military installations as half of all federal civilian employees are furloughed. Kirtland Air Force Base alone has more than 37-hundred federal civilian workers.