Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

Mar 14, 2019

Repository workers trapped underground during power outage(Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus, http://www.currentargus.com/)CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Thirty-six miners at a New Mexico nuclear waste repository were trapped underground in an elevator for about three hours due to a power outage.The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the outage Tuesday at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant facility near the Pecos River was caused by heavy winds and storms.The facility also ceased operations Wednesday due to an ongoing threat of heavy, damaging winds.Nuclear Waste Partnership spokesman Bobby St. John says an initial investigation showed the facility's utility provider lost power due to the "extreme weather."St. John says the waste handling hoist carrying the workers lost power at about 7 p.m. and was operational by 10 p.m.Once power was restored, workers were lowered about 600 feet back underground and brought to the surface using the salt hoist.___


The Latest: 7 GOP senators now against Trump border orderWASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Sen. Lamar Alexander have endorsed a resolution passed by the Democratic-controlled House to block President Donald Trump from using emergency powers to fund his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.That brings to seven the number of Republicans who have announced they will cross Trump on a vote expected for Thursday afternoon, ensuring the measure will pass.Romney was the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee and a sometimes critic of Trump; Alexander is among the senior guardians of the Senate as an institution. Lawmakers oppose Trump's action because they see the power of the purse as Congress' prerogative.Romney said that "this is a vote for the Constitution and for the balance of powers that is at its core."Trump has promised to veto the measure and is sure to be sustained by his House GOP allies.__


New Mexico Senate panel guts House-passed tax planSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A key New Mexico Senate committee has removed proposed increases in personal income tax rates for higher-earning residents.The Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee voted 5-2 on Thursday to move along a House-passed tax package but only after the income tax hikes were dropped and the bill was significantly amended.Committee Chair Sen. Clemente Sanchez says the state's budget surplus made it hard to rationalize a major tax hike. Under the changes, proposed tax increases on tobacco products and cars shrank.Sanchez broke with Democratic colleagues who say significant new sources of state income are needed to ensure sustained funding for higher teacher salaries and roadways.Rep. Jim Trujillo, a Santa Fe Democrat, says lawmakers have already spent the projected surplus and the state needed more revenue.


Alamogordo declares itself Second Amendment Sanctuary city(Information from: Alamogordo Daily News, http://www.alamogordonews.com)ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico city has declared itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary city in a move to protest legislative actions they feel may infringe on residents' right to bear arms.The Alamogordo Daily News reports the Alamogordo City Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of the symbolic declaration that is a resolution and not a law.Alamogordo Mayor Richard Boss says the city's police department is still going to have to enforce the laws of the state of New Mexico.Alamogordo Police Chief Brian Peete agreed with Boss and added that he expects a constitutional challenge to firearm legislation signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.___


New Mexico oilfield regulators regain authority under billSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico oilfield regulators would recover authority to directly levy civil fines against well operators who fail to properly maintain equipment or spill waste under a bill endorsed by the Senate.The 32-6 Senate vote Friday sends the bill to the House for approval of amendments before it can reach the governor. The bill contains oversight provisions for the handling of water in drilling and fracking.Collection of fines against oilfield operators has ground to a near halt in the aftermath of a 2009 state Supreme Court decision that required the involvement of state prosecutors to assess penalties.Under the bill, possible fines would increase from $1,000 a day to $2,500 — and possibly $10,000 for major threats to health, safety or the environment. Fines are capped at $200,000.


US immigration agents find ways around 'sanctuary' policiesPHOENIX (AP) — Despite scores of sanctuary laws around the country to shield immigrants from deportation, federal authorities are still getting under-the-table cooperation from some local law enforcement agencies.Activists say Immigration and Customs Enforcement has informal information-sharing relationships with police and jail officials. In New Mexico, for example, the staff at the county jail in Albuquerque was giving ICE access to its computers and tipping off the agency about inmates being released.Immigration activists say they have seen it places like Philadelphia, Chicago and several communities in California, which has a statewide sanctuary law. The American Civil Liberties Union reported this week that emails show that a detective in Orange County, California, regularly looked up license plate information for an immigration officer.


US moves to lift remaining gray wolf protectionsBILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. wildlife officials want to strip gray wolves of their remaining federal protections and declare the species recovered following a decades-long restoration effort.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal released Thursday would put wolves under state authority and allow hunting in more areas. The Associated Press reported last week that the proposal was coming.Critics argue the move is premature, with wolves still absent across most of their historic range.Government officials say their goal was to protect against extinction, not restore wolves everywhere.Trapping, poisoning and hunting exterminated wolves across most of the Lower 48 early last century. They bounced back under federal protection, and more than 6,000 now live in portions of nine states.A final decision on lifting protections will follow a public comment period.


The Latest: Worker dies restoring power in Texas PanhandlePIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A utility worker in the Texas Panhandle was killed while working to restore power amid powerful winds pushed in by a storm system that's pummeling parts of the Midwest .Amarillo-based Xcel Energy says the man died Wednesday evening while working in Hereford, near the New Mexico border. Wind gusts in the area exceeded 80 mph (128.74 kph).The utility says 121,000 customers in Texas and New Mexico were without power Wednesday, but that number had dropped significantly by Thursday morning.A powerful storm barreled into the Midwest after causing widespread power outages in Colorado, where a blizzard forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and wreaked havoc on roadways.