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DENVER (AP) — Colorado, the U.S. government and a gold mining company have agreed to resolve a longstanding dispute over who's responsible for cleanup at a Superfund site that was established after a massive 2015 spill of hazardous mine waste. The spill in southwestern Colorado fouled rivers with a sickly yellow sheen in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Denver-based Sunnyside Gold Corp say that the proposed settlement announced Friday would direct $90 million to cleanup at the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site. A federal judge must approve the proposed settlement after a public comment period.
- REDISTRICTING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Republican Party says it has filed a legal challenge to New Mexico's recently approved political map that reshapes the state's three congressional districts. The lawsuit was filed Friday in a Roswell-based state district court. In a news release, the state Republican Party said the state's new congressional map would dilute Republican voting strength. Consultants to the Legislature say the new congressional map gives Democrats an advantage in all three districts to varying degrees. Republicans need a net gain of five seats in 2022 to take control of the U.S. House and effectively freeze President Joe Biden's agenda.
- FREE COLLEGE-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham outlined Friday provisions of a legislative proposal to expand tuition-free public college to more students from New Mexico. The governor is backing a bill that would combine and increase state scholarship funding to cover all tuition and fees for in-state college students who maintain a C-plus grade point average. It would apply to part- or full-time attendance at any New Mexico public college, university or tribal college. Sen. Liz Stefanics of Santa Fe and Rep. Joy Garratt of Albuquerque, both Democrats, are sponsoring the bill during a 30-day legislative session that ends on Feb. 17.
- TAX CUTS-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Legislators are introducing competing proposals to do away with New Mexico's tax on income from Social Security benefits as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham throws her political weight behind the concept in an election year. About a dozen states tax Social Security benefits in some fashion. In New Mexico, personal income taxes apply to Social Security benefits. Lujan Grisham on Thursday signaled her support for an immediate and full tax exemption for Social Security income, under a bill from Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque. That fiscal relief would be concentrated among higher earning individuals.
- FATAL STABBING-HATCH
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A 37-year-old New Mexico man has been convicted of second-degree murder in the 2020 fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend in Hatch. A Las Cruces jury found Salvador Gonzales guilty on Friday. Prosecutors say evidence presented during the trial included a video taken by a neighbor that showed Gonzales stabbing Juan Ruiz Flores several times in April 2020. They say Gonzales had been drinking before the two men got into an argument that led to a fistfight and eventually the stabbing with a knife. Gonzales' lawyer argued he was acting in self-defense. He faces up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing at a later date.
- NAVAJO NATION HOSPITAL-VIRUS HELP
SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) — More than 200 U.S. military medical personnel are being deployed to eight states and the Navajo Nation, including a hospital in New Mexico, to support civilian health care workers treating COVID-19 patients. A 20-person team from the U.S. Army will support the Navajo Nation at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock. The other deployments announced Friday include Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and Texas. In New Mexico, health officials announced that COVID-19 was recently identified as the third leading cause of death for New Mexicans in 2020, outpaced only by fatalities attributed to cancer and heart disease.
- COLORADO RIVER-TRIBAL WATER
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Native American tribe has agreed to lease more of its water to help address dwindling supplies in the Colorado River Basin. The agreement announced Thursday involves the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and The Nature Conservancy. Tribal water administrator Daryl Vigil highlighted the need for creative solutions as the drought-stricken basin faces more pressure. He described the agreement as a novel project that could serve as a model for other tribes. In Arizona, some tribes have played an outsized role in shoring up water supplies as that state deals with mandatory cuts in its Colorado River allocation.
- NAVAJO NATION-SOLAR
CAMERON, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona utility and the Navajo Nation are partnering on a new solar plant to be built on the reservation. The tribe had approved the lease for the Salt River Project last year. The utility and the tribe signed a power purchase agreement Thursday for the 200-megawatt plant in Cameron. About 400 people will be employed during construction, with a hiring preference for Navajos. The tribe has a handful of utility-scale solar plants on the reservation, including one in the works near Red Mesa. Two others in Kayenta produced a total of 55 megawatts, with the power going to Navajo homes and businesses.