Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT
- SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed emergency declarations as 20 wildfires continued to burn Sunday in nearly half of the state's drought-stricken 33 counties. One wildfire in northern New Mexico that started April 6 merged with a newer fire Saturday to form the largest blaze in the state, leading to widespread evacuations in Mora and San Miguel counties. That fire was at 84 square miles Sunday and 12% contained. A still uncontained, wind-driven wildfire in northern New Mexico that began April 17 had charred 81 square miles of ponderosa pine, oak brush and grass by Sunday morning north of Ocate. Meanwhile in Arizona, some residents forced to evacuate due to a wildfire near Flagstaff were allowed to return home Sunday morning.
- CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — State environmental regulators are reviewing plans submitted by Mosaic Potash to investigate and define the extent of groundwater contamination from discharges associated with potash mining along the Pecos River in southern New Mexico. The state Environment Department announced earlier this month that contamination had been detected in nearby groundwater monitoring wells and that the company was required to submit a plan for monitoring and dealing with the pollution. Potash mining is a main economic driver in Eddy County. A salt rich in potassium, potash is used mostly as a plant fertilizer and in animal feed.
- Juries have heard an array of defenses at the first trials for rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol. So far, all three juries to decide a Capitol riot case convicted each defendant of all charges. Retired New York City police officer Thomas Webster is the next to go on trial, with jury selection scheduled to begin Monday. Webster may have a novel defense of his own: He has claimed he was acting in self-defense when he tackled a police officer outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But a judge has described Webster as an instigator who should have known better given his professional experience.
- New Mexico's governor says the state faces a long and potentially devastating wildfire season as Southwestern wildfires cause destruction and force people from their homes. Hundreds of New Mexico structures have been lost in a growing number of wind-driven blazes across the drought-stricken state. Gov. Michelle Lujan said Saturday that over 20 active wildfires were burning in at least 16 of the state's 33 counties in the wake of winds that gusted up to 90 mph on Friday. She said multiple major fires before May or June when they usually appear signals the wildfire season is "incredibly and dangerously early." Fires in neighboring Arizona include one that burned 30 homes near Flagstaff.
- NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Biden administration has begun phasing out use of a pandemic-related public health rule that allows the expulsion of migrants without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum. The administration said Friday it has recently processed more single adults from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador under immigration laws, which include rights to seek asylum. Its acknowledgement came in a court filing in a lawsuit filed by Arizona, Louisiana and 19 other states that seeks to preserve the authority. The state of Texas filed its own challenge to the termination of the rule in federal court.
- SANTA FE N.M. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján says Thursday that he's 90% recovered from his stroke. The 49-year-old spoke during a visit to Santa Fe High School, part of his first public appearances since returning to Congress in March. The stroke had put him the hospital in January and threatened to derail Democratic control of Congress. But Luján says he's back to working on the family farm and was able to walk in an Easter pilgrimage last week. He says voters, not his health scare, will decide when he might retire. In Santa Fe, Luján and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke with students about their struggles with mental health.
- ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Independent federal investigators say there are significant issues related to fire training at the U.S. government's nuclear waste repository in New Mexico. The U.S. Energy Department's Office of Inspector General also found that firefighting vehicles at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant were in disrepair from years of neglected maintenance. Federal officials say they're making changes to address the issues. The repository is the backbone of a multibillion-dollar program for cleaning up tons of Cold War-era waste from past nuclear research and bomb making. The safety concerns come as New Mexico's governor and others voice opposition to expanding the types of radioactive waste that can be shipped to the repository.
- MIAMI (AP) — More immigrants from Cuba are coming to the U.S. by making their way to Mexico and crossing the border illegally. It's a very different reality from years ago, when Cubans enjoyed special protections that other immigrants did not have. The increase coincided with Nicaragua's decision starting in November to stop requiring visas for Cubans to promote tourism after other countries, such as Panama and the Dominican Republic, began to require them. U.S. border authorities encountered Cubans almost 32,400 times in March, according to figures released Monday. That was double the number in February and five times the number in October.