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

Apr 12, 2019

US lab addresses seismic concerns, resumes waste shipmentsLOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Officials at one of the nation's top nuclear weapons laboratories say a special indoor facility for shipping radioactive waste is back in operation after five years.Los Alamos National Laboratory said Friday the facility received federal authorization to reopen earlier this year and the first shipment was loaded up and sent off this week to the government's nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.Shipments from the facility stopped in 2014 following questions about its ability to withstand a large earthquake event. The lab then developed a new strategy for operations to accommodate concerns.As plutonium manufacturing ramps up at the lab so will the amount of waste generated, and officials say successful operations at the loading facility will be crucial.The waste includes gloves, booties, tools and debris contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive elements.


New Mexico official rejects gun control petition again(Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.santafenewmexican.com)SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top election regulator has rejected for the second time an attempt to challenge a new gun control measure through a statewide referendum.House minority leader James Townsend of Artesia last week submitted a revamped proposed petition to Democrat Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver for consideration.The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Toulouse Oliver declined to approve the petition, saying the law to expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales was designed to improve public safety and therefore is exempt from such referendums.Her decision could prompt a legal challenge over the legislation and the state's restrictions on referendums.The petition process has lengthy requirements that include the collection of about 70,000 signatures before the matter could be put on a ballot for voters to decide.___


4 Corners Airport hopes upgrades woo commercial flights(Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com)FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Officials at the Four Corners Regional Airport in northwestern New Mexico hope proposed upgrades will bring commercial airlines back.The Farmington Daily Times reports a five-year $23.2 million plan presented this week calls for improvements to runways, installation of an engineered material arresting system and taxiway relocation.Airport Manager Mike Lewis told the Farmington City Council the upgrades could be used to attract commercial air service back to the airport.No commercial airline has landed a plane at the Four Corners Regional Airport since 2017.Farmington Economic Development Director Warren Unsicker says the commercial air service will help Farmington as it works to accomplish goals like increasing tourism, attracting retirees and building an aerospace industry.___


Rating agency says New Mexico pension woes persistSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An international credit rating agency says New Mexico's unfunded pension obligations to public employees continue to cast a shadow over government finances.Moody's Investor Service on Thursday said that a general fund budget plan recently signed by the governor improves the financial health of public schools and community colleges.Annual state spending on public education is set to increase by a half-billion dollars.Moody's says pension reforms this year did not increase contributions by enough to reduce the problem of unfunded financial liabilities. Employer pension contributions rise by 0.25% starting July 1.Education Retirement Board Executive Director Jan Goodwin disagrees with the negative assessment. She cites a new law that delays the rapid accrual of pension benefits for future educational workers until they surpass 20 years of service.


Closings set in trial of man charged in officer's deathALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Attorneys plan to make their final case in the trial of a man who has been charged with killing an Albuquerque police officer.Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning before Davon Lymon's case is sent to the jury.Lymon, who is 38, is charged with murder and other lesser counts in connection with Officer Daniel Webster's death.Prosecutors have sought to argue that Lymon shot Webster in October 2015 because he was a felon in possession of a firearm who did not want to return to prison.Lymon testified that he opened fire during a traffic stop because he feared for his life.He already has been sentenced in federal court to four decades in prison after being convicted of firearms-related charges and other crimes.


Gallup Diocese adds ex-New Jersey priest to list of accused(Information from: Gallup Independent, http://www.gallupindependent.com)GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — The Diocese of Gallup in New Mexico has added the name of another priest to its list of credibly accused sex abusers.The Gallup Independent reports the diocese said this week it was adding Thomas M. Harkins, who served three months at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Page, Arizona from October 1981 to January 1982.The Diocese of Camden removed Harkins from the priesthood in 2002 following allegations of child sexual abuse.Church officials in Gallup say they are not aware of any complaints or allegations regarding Harkins during his brief time in Arizona.Harkins made the national news in 2012 following media reports he had been hired by the Transportation Security Administration and was working at the Philadelphia International Airport.___


Attorneys: Honduran transgender migrant unlawfully detainedALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Civil rights attorneys are requesting the release of a Honduran transgender migrant who they say has been unlawfully held — at times in solitary confinement — at an immigration detention center in New Mexico.The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico in a court filing Thursday said Nicole Garcia Aguilar was initially granted asylum by a U.S. judge in October, but the government appealed the ruling over arguments about the credibility of her claims.The filing contends Garcia Aguilar remains in custody despite a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that people who have been granted asylum generally merit release pending appeal.Immigration authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Garcia Aguilar was among a wave of Central American migrants who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in early 2018.


USFWS reconsidering status of bistate sage grouse in NV-CARENO, Nev. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it's going back to the drawing board with its plans to protect a type of imperiled game bird found only along the California-Nevada line after a federal judge struck down its decision to rescind a proposal to list it as threatened.The agency announced late Thursday it will reopen the public comment period on whether to protect the bistate sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.A judge ruled last May that the agency acted illegally in 2015 when it withdrew an earlier proposal to list the bistate grouse as a distinct, threatened segment of the larger population of the greater sage grouse.That chicken-sized bird is at the center of a dispute over Trump administration efforts to roll back protections adopted under President Obama across 11 western states.