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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MST


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Monday reported 17 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no deaths. The latest numbers pushed the tribe's total to 38,352 cases since the pandemic started. The number of known deaths remains at 1,514. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has urged residents of the vast reservation to be careful when traveling to neighboring cities and states where safety measures aren't always as strict. The tribe has maintained a mask mandate through most of the pandemic. The reservation covers 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) and extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Public Education Department is asking the Legislature for a $6.7 million budget increase, citing the need to address an ongoing lawsuit, absenteeism programs and management of federal funding. Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus told a key panel of lawmakers Tuesday that he needs at least 33 more employees in his department. He says staffing increases and other emerging needs require an increase in spending from $14.5 million to $21 million per year. Some $3 billion in state funding goes to school districts each year. New Mexico schools also received an additional $1 billion in pandemic relief funds this year.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico utility officials are touting millions of dollars in economic development benefits and customer savings if state regulators approve a multibillion-dollar merger with a subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola. Two executives with Public Service Co. of New Mexico testified Tuesday before a panel of legislators. They said the deal would result in 150 new jobs and a better credit rating for financing $4 billion in future investments. A hearing examiner has recommended that the merger as proposed be rejected by the Public Regulation Commission. A final decision is pending. Several lawmakers raised questions about reliability and customer service.


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — States will soon be flooded with federal money they can use to repair, improve or remove thousands of aging dams across the U.S. The funding is included in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden. Though it pales in comparison to the amounts earmarked for roads and high-speed internet, the roughly $3 billion for dam-related programs is far more than they have been getting. One grant program for repairs at high-hazard dams had been receiving $10 million to $12 million each of the past few years. The infrastructure bill designates $585 million for that program. The U.S. has more than 90,000 dams.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill Richardson's success in helping secure the release of journalist Danny Fenster from a Myanmar prison is the latest demonstration of the former New Mexico governor's knack for flying into some the most closed societies on earth and persuading those in charge to do Washington a favor. From Iraq to Sudan to North Korea, Richardson has repeatedly proven willing to meet with dictators, military juntas and reclusive strongmen. His missions have often come with the blessing of Democratic presidents, though their public endorsement is rarer. Striking that balance allows foreign officials to believe they are talking to someone who can be an informal conduit to top U.S. officials. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is thanking attendees of the New Mexico Oil And Gas Association's annual meeting for their contributions to the economy. Fossil fuel mining is the state's largest government revenue source and directly funds education. Lujan Grisham also pledges to continue stricter regulation of methane emission and other byproducts of oil and gas extraction. She is cheering recent investments in hydrogen fuel cell technology and promises to pass a bill next year to make New Mexico a hydrogen "hub." Hydrogen can store energy and produces no carbon dioxide emissions. But hydrogen production currently relies on fossil fuels inputs. Climate activists are protesting Lujan Grisham's speech.


TAOS, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of a bear with arrows along a road near Taos. Game and Fish Department spokesman James Pitman told  the Albuquerque Journal that the killing occurred Oct. 29. Pitman said bear hunting was in season then but that it's illegal to shoot an animal on the edge of a public road. Pitman said the department has identified a suspect but not yet filed a case report. No information was available on the bear's gender or size.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Department of the Interior says oil and gas leasing within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico will be prohibited for the next two years. The temporary moratorium announced Monday will allow time for the agency to consider a proposal that would withdraw federal land holdings from development in northwestern New Mexico for 20 years. The announcement comes as environmentalists, some tribes and Democratic politicians pressure Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to take administrative action to protect areas outside the park's boundaries. Haaland is the first Native American to hold a cabinet position and is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico.