- CLEAN WATER RULE-LAWSUITS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The nation's largest Native American tribe and several environmental groups are waging a legal challenge to a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks and wetlands across the U.S. Critics say the rule, which took effect Monday, drastically reduces the number of waterways across the Navajo Nation and arid regions that are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Navajo Nation and environmental groups filed complaints this week in federal court. Some groups contend New Mexico is disproportionately affected because of the large number of small streams in the state that flow only during wet times of the year.
LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico undersheriff is facing charges stemming from a brawl at a Valentine's Day dance. The Las Vegas Optic reports San Miguel County Undersheriff Mike Padilla was charged with misdemeanor aggravated battery months after police say there was a fight involving two groups. Four others, including Padilla's wife and son, are also facing misdemeanor charges. Court records show that Padilla was not arrested, but instead issued a summons, a practice that has become more common since the coronavirus outbreak. Padilla's attorney, Marc Grano, says he is still reviewing the case.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The statewide total of COVID-19 infections in New Mexico is approaching 11,000 as health officials are reporting an additional 156 positive tests. The numbers released Wednesday also show the death toll now stands at 480, including four new deaths related to the coronavirus. The latest cases come as the state eases into the reopening of some segments of the economy, including breweries, restaurants, gyms and salons at limited capacities. However, members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations have been asking Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to consider allowing veterans' posts to open.
- EDUCATION LAWSUIT-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The leader of one of the largest Native American tribes in the U.S. called Wednesday on New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to end efforts to fight a court ruling that orders improvements in education for members of his tribe and other vulnerable groups. The comments from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez come ahead of a court hearing next week in which Lujan Grisham will ask a state judge to dismiss a consolidated lawsuit representing Native American and Hispanic plaintiffs. Her administration argues that the state has increased funding for education, that future changes will take years, and that they should not be micromanaged by court orders.
- WASTE DOCUMENTATION FINE
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy has been fined $304,000 over missed deadlines in documenting waste shipments at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the New Mexico Environment Department cited the federal agency, the lab and the lab's contracted operator Triad National Security LLC for eight violations dating back to 2017. The violations involved documentation deadlines missed by a year or more. All occurred under previous lab operator Los Alamos National Security LLC. Triad took over lab management in November 2018. It isn't known whether the nuclear security administration plans to challenge the fine.
- NEW MEXICO ENERGY FUTURE
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Solar panels with the capacity to produce hundreds of megawatts of electricity and back-up battery storage systems would be installed in northwestern New Mexico to replace the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station under one alternative that will be considered by state regulators. Hearing examiners with the Public Regulation Commission issued the recommendations Wednesday in a case that has been fraught with protests, political power struggles and legal battles. The document states that New Mexico's new energy transition law puts more weight on environmental effects than on cost. so some of the options that include more renewable energy could end up costing ratepayers more.
- FORT DEFIANCE MURDER-SENTENCING
PHOENIX (AP) — A Fort Defiance man accused of a fatal stabbing has been sentenced to 17 ½ years in federal prison. Prosecutors say 25-year-old Lodi Gene Bitsie II was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. He previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the April 2019 stabbing on the Navajo Nation reservation. Prosecutors say Bitsie argued with the victim before punching him and then stabbing him in chest with a large knife. Authorities say the victim died from the stab wounds. The FBI investigated the case because it was on tribal land.
- FALLEN POLICE OFFICER HONORED
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — All flags on the Navajo Nation will be flown at half-staff through Thursday to honor the first officer on the tribal police force to die from the coronavirus in the line of duty. Officer Michael Lee died June 19 at a Phoenix hospital. The 50-year-old Lee served 29 years with the tribal police department, beginning his law enforcement career as a recruit with the Navajo Police Academy in October 1990. He worked his first seven years in Window Rock and the rest of his career in Chinle. Tribal officials say Lee is survived by a wife and children. Lee's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the Potter's House Christian Center in Chinle.