BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Interior Department is cancelling oil and natural gas lease sales from public lands through June amid an ongoing review of how burning that fuel contributes to climate change. President Joe Biden has also ordered Interior officials to review if the sales of public energy reserves unfairly benefit companies at the expense of taxpayers. Wednesday's action does not affect existing leases, and Interior officials have continued to issue new drilling permits. Lease sales were scheduled in at least two states — Nevada and Colorado. Industry representatives and Republican lawmakers argue that cancelling the sales will harm the economies of Western states.
- JILL BIDEN-SOUTHWEST
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — First lady Jill Biden is kicking off a three-day, two-state visit to the U.S. Southwest with a tour of a vaccination clinic in Albuquerque. Wednesday's tour comes as the nation is set to meet President Joe Biden's goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office. New Mexico has been among the leading states when it comes to vaccination distribution. Nearly 39% of New Mexico residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated. While eligibility was expanded earlier this month, the focus is now shifting to younger people ahead of the summer break.
- CLERGY ABUSE-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a former Roman Catholic priest's convictions and 30-year prison sentence in a New Mexico case centered on sexual abuse of an altar boy at a veterans cemetery and military base. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arthur Perrault "received a fundamentally fair trial in compliance with his constitutional rights." Perrault had fled the United States decades before he was returned from Morocco after being indicted in 2017. Perrault was convicted in 2019 of six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor under 12.
- GEORGE FLOYD-OFFICER TRIAL-SCHOOLS
The verdict in the trial George Floyd's killing marked the latest challenge for teachers around the U.S. who have grappled all year with how to address the country's reckoning with racial injustice. In the moment and the immediate aftermath, some have looked to challenge students' thinking or draw historical parallels. Others primarily sought to give youths space to process their reactions. Large school districts including Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Houston stressed that counselors would be available to support students. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Superintendent Scott Elder called on educators to provide guidance to help students process events.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported finding no new COVID-19 related deaths for the 10th consecutive day. The tribe reported nine new confirmed coronavirus cases, but no additional deaths on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The latest numbers bring the Navajo Nation's pandemic case total to 30,380 with the death toll remaining at 1,262. Tribal health officials say more than 16,500 people have recovered from COVID-19 thus far. The tribe had been easing into reopening but that slowed somewhat after coronavirus variants were confirmed on the reservation. Tribal officials urged residents to stay vigilant.
- SCHOOL DISTRICT-PUBLIC RECORDS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A judge has ordered the Albuquerque school district to pay over $400,000 to the Albuquerque Journal and KOB-TV for violating state law by not turning over public records in a timely manner and not meeting deadlines on responding to requests for documents. District Judge Nancy Franchini also ruled Monday that the two news organizations are entitled to reasonable attorney fees and legal costs, the Journal reported. Franchini awarded the Journal $293,625 and KOB $118,000 in their lawsuit over documents related to former Superintendent Winston Brooks' departure. Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the district will appeal the ruling.
- NATURAL GAS PRICES-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gas Co. wants to recover costs associated with dramatic spikes in natural gas prices over the winter. The utility said Tuesday it has filed an application with the state Public Regulation Commission. The proposal calls for spreading the recovery of the costs through December 2023 in order to minimize the effects on customers' monthly bills. If approved by regulators, the average increase for customers would be about $5.70 per month, or about 10%. Utility officials say the costs faced in February were unprecedented and the market conditions forced the company to pay higher prices.
- NUCLEAR LAB-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. government plans to build a new transmission line and make other upgrades to ensure its northern New Mexico nuclear weapons laboratory has enough electricity for current and future missions. Officials say one of the existing lines feeding Los Alamos National Laboratory is expected to reach capacity this summer. The other will likely hit its limit in coming years as the lab ramps up production of key components for the nation's nuclear arsenal. The U.S. Energy Department says it will work with federal land managers to assess the project's potential environmental effects. They're asking the public to weigh in on the scope of the planned review.