Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST
- NUCLEAR WEAPONS-LOS ALAMOS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The National Nuclear Security Administration says it doesn't need to do an additional environmental review for Los Alamos National Laboratory before it begins producing key components for the nation's nuclear arsenal. The agency says it already has sufficient information. Watchdog groups are concerned about Tuesday's announcement, saying the plutonium pit production work will amount to a vast expansion of the lab's nuclear mission and that more analysis should be done. The government has set a deadline to produce 80 plutonium pits per year by 2030. The work will be shared between Los Alamos and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A top state health official is warning that COVID-19 infections are far more prevalent in low-income areas of the New Mexico, potentially straining Medicaid health care. Human Services Secretary David Scrase said Wednesday that an analysis of infection rates by census tract shows that highly impoverished areas have infection rates seven times higher than the most affluent zones. Health officials announced 154 newly confirmed infections statewide, led by Dona Ana County in southern New Mexico with 33, and three related deaths. State health officials are wary that festivities over the Labor Day holiday weekend could lead to renewed surges in COVID-19 infections.
- STATE LAND-HUNTING ACCESS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico land and wildlife managers say they have finished work that will result in more access to state trust land for licensed hunters. The Land Office and the Game and Fish Department made the announcement in time for the start of the deer and elk hunting season, which kicked off this week. The Game and Fish Department paid the State Land Office $800,000 for an easement that allows access to 8.8 million acres of trust land. The agreement also included $200,000 worth of projects that ranged from installing signs to road work and construction of a new campsite on Chupadera Mesa in Socorro County.
- SPACEPORT AMERICA-INVESTIGATION
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The interim leader of Spaceport America says an investigation into the conduct of the organization's chief executive officer is ongoing and that initial findings are expected in the coming weeks. Scott McLaughlin testified Wednesday before a New Mexico legislative panel, saying the recent shakeup stemming from a whistleblower complaint filed in June has left the spaceport in a difficult situation. Dan Hicks was placed on administrative leave after being accused of circumventing internal financial controls and accounting procedures. State auditors are reviewing the spaceport's finances, and McLaughlin said all capital projects also are being assessed because of the open investigation.
- FOOD TAX-NEW MEXICO
SANTA, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico state taxation authorities on Wednesday urged grocery stores to stop unnecessarily collecting sales taxes on groceries that are delivered during the coronavirus pandemic. The state remained under a stay-at-home order Thursday that discourages unnecessary outings and public gatherings. At the same time, online shoppers have discovered gross receipts tax charges on home-delivered groceries that are tax free when purchased in stores, undercutting the incentive to stay home. The Taxation and Revenue Department published a guidance memo that outlines exact circumstances for waiving taxes on food. State law provides for a tax deduction for sales at retail food establishments.
- DRONE ACCIDENT-NEW MEXICO
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. military says an Air Force attack drone was damaged Wednesday when it went off a runway during takeoff at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico. Base officials said in a statement that the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 49th Wing was the only aircraft involved. The statement said a board of Air Force officers will investigate the accident to determine the cause. The base is 79 miles north of El Paso, Texas.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials have reported 110 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight related deaths. Tuesday's coronavirus statistics show that Dona Ana County had the most new infections, with 32 cases. Cumulative statewide deaths from the coronavirus now number 787. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Mexico has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 156 new cases per day on Aug. 17 to 127 new cases per day on Aug. 31. That's according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
- AIR POLLUTION-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico environmental regulators have issued citations against natural gas processing plants on allegations they vastly exceeded permitted air pollution limits while burning off excess natural gas. The New Mexico Environment Department on Tuesday announced compliance orders against plant operators DCP Operating Company and Energy Transfer Partners with potential fines in excess of $7 million. The agency said the excess pollutants may contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and other hazardous air-quality conditions.