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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MST

  • UNDERSHERIFF WON'T BE PROSECUTED

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A special prosecutor says a northern New Mexico senior sheriff's official has agreed to retire in exchange for dismissal of a felony charge accusing him of ordering deputies to draw their guns against other officers. The charge accusing Rio Arriba County Undersheriff Martin Ray Trjujillo of solicitation to commit aggravated assault upon a police officer was dismissed Monday. Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said it can be refiled if Trujillo doesn't retire at the end of February as agreed. The 2020 incident in which Trujillo was charged involved a confrontation involving then-Sheriff James Lujan and officers attempting to seize his cellphone for an investigation.

  • CHACO-OIL AND GAS

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials have scheduled a series of public meetings to gather comments on the U.S. Interior Department's proposal to limit oil and gas development on federal land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Two in-person meetings will be held Wednesday in Farmington. A virtual meeting will follow Thursday evening. It's part of a process that aims to withdraw federal land holdings within 10 miles of the park boundary, making the area off-limits to oil and gas leasing for 20 years. New leases on federal land in the area will be halted for the next two years while the withdrawal proposal is considered.

  • BC-US-BORDER-AGENCY-NEW-LEADER

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — Chris Magnus has many challenges to overcome in his new role as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Among them are agent discontent, allegations of migrant mistreatment, a failure to recruit more women and an asylum system that many view as broken. In an interview with The Associated Press, Magnus acknowledged morale problems within the nation's largest law enforcement agency but offered no quick answers to the heavy migration flow to the U.S., which attracts more asylum seekers than any other country. Magnus might seem like an unconventional pick. As police chief in Tucson, Arizona, he rejected federal grants to collaborate on border security with the agency he now leads and kept a distance from Border Patrol leaders.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has lifted the state's mask mandate for indoor public spaces. She made the surprise announcement at a news conference Thursday that followed the end of the 30-day legislative session. She cited reduced COVID-19 risk. Washington's governor also announced that state's mandate would be lifted for most places. Until now, New Mexico and Hawaii were the only states that had yet to set a date for lifting their mandates. While cases in New Mexico have been declining, state health officials said masks will still be required in hospitals and other congregate care settings such as nursing homes.

  • SOLAR SHORTAGE-NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A utility in sun-drenched New Mexico is struggling to get enough solar-generated electricity as it prepares to shut down a coal-fired power plant amid supply chain disruptions. Utility executives say they have a plan to ensure adequate supplies to feed air conditioners and avoid rolling blackouts during peak demands this summer. If approved by regulators, one unit at the San Juan Generating Station slated to close in June would be kept running through September. Despite more pressure to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change, experts say many solar projects around the world risk delays or cancellation due to rising material and shipping costs.

  • LEGISLATURE-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico legislators have approved about $500 million in tax rebates and a broad suite of crime-fighting initiatives in the closing hours of their 30-day legislative session. The initiatives won legislative approval Thursday as the state grapples with the economic whiplash of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about a surge in violent crime in Albuquerque and elsewhere in the state. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for financial relief and a big response to crime as she campaigns for reelection in November. An initiative to expand voting access was thwarted by Republicans in the legislative minority. The Democratic-led Legislature also approved a record-setting $1 billion annual budget increase.

  • AP-US-COWBOYS-FOR-TRUMP

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court has turned away a constitutional challenge by the support group Cowboys for Trump and co-founder Couy Griffin to New Mexico election laws and registration requirements for political groups. The Denver-based U.S. 10th District Court of Appeals declined to reverse a lower court ruling that upheld state registration requirements for Cowboys for Trump as a political organization. Griffin filed a district court lawsuit in 2020 amid mounting pressure on the Cowboys for Trump to register as a political committee in New Mexico and possibly disclose information on expenditures and contributions.

  • AP-US-CLIMATE-CHANGE-NUCLEAR-POWER

A report released Thursday says a new type of nuclear reactor that would provide carbon-free energy to at least four states in the Western U.S. poses financial risks for utilities and their ratepayers. It was immediately criticized as misinformed by the project's owner and the company developing the reactor. The report by the Ohio-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said the small modular nuclear reactor being developed by NuScale Power is "too expensive, too risky and too uncertain." The NuScale design is the only small-scale reactor to win safety approval so far from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.