Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MST

May 22, 2020

The latest federal labor statistics show New Mexico has processed more than 146,000 claims for unemployment since mid-March. That represents about 18% of the total workforce in the state that's eligible for the unemployment insurance program. The number of new applications submitted in New Mexico during the week ending May 16 showed almost no change from the number of applications submitted the previous week. However, it still represented a dramatic increase from the same time last year as New Mexico and the rest of the world grapple with economic fallout resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) — Several dozen workers at a meat processing plant in southern New Mexico have tested positive for coronavirus. State health officials plan another round of testing at the facility next week. Illinois-based Stampede Meat says its processing facilities are cleaned and sanitized daily, employees are screened and they're instructed to wear protection that includes masks and face shields. The state has nearly 6,500 cases, with officials raising concerns about young people without symptoms potentially spreading the virus. Children and teenagers make up about 13% of the state's positive cases, up from 7% a few weeks ago and about four times higher than the national average.


PORTALES, N.M. (AP) — The first few turbines that will make up Xcel Energy's Sagamore Wind Project in eastern New Mexico have been erected. Company officials said Thursday the construction crews have been able to stay on track and work safely over the past couple of months despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. They say adjustments have been made to ensure components from around the world will be delivered in time to have the wind farm operating by the end of the year. The $900 million wind farm will be capable of generating enough electricity to power 194,000 homes annually. It will create 30 full-time jobs.


MESCALERO, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled against the Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. The tribe has long sought to operate a casino in New Mexico. The Deming Headlight reports U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle upheld a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission that the Fort Sill Apache was not eligible to game in the southwestern state. Fort Sill is a federally recognized tribe located in Oklahoma that has land at Akela Flats, located 18 miles east of Deming. Fort Sill tried to open a small casino on the land in 2008 after it was donated to the tribe in the 1990s. 


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit from a coalition of states, environmental groups and American Indians that sought to revive an Obama-era moratorium against U.S. government coal sales on public lands in the West. The judge said President Donald Trump's administration had fixed its initial failure to consider the environmental impacts of ending the moratorium. Opponents of the leasing program included the Democratic attorneys general of California, New York, New Mexico and Washington state. The mining industry and two coal states, Wyoming and Montana, joined the case on the side of the federal government. 


GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — A coal company has furloughed or laid off 101 workers at a Wyoming mine, citing reduced energy use during the coronavirus pandemic. Navajo Transitional Energy Co. furloughed 93 hourly employees and eight salaried staff Thursday at the Antelope mine. The Navajo Nation company said in a statement the furloughs and layoffs are necessary despite temporary pay reductions and other attempts to preserve jobs. The Gillette News Record reports the job losses are on top of 130 NTEC workers laid off in April — 73 from the Spring Creek mine in southern Montana and 57 at Antelope in northeastern Wyoming.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — It is unclear who is sponsoring incendiary new political attack ads against a former CIA operative who is a candidate for a northern New Mexico congressional seat. The Washington, D.C.-based group behind the ads doesn't disclose donors and its only known activity is to denounce Valerie Plame as a "disgraced racist millionaire" in paid video spots on Facebook and Instagram in English and Spanish. Plame has called the ads disgusting and says she has apologized and tried to atone for sharing on Twitter in 2017 an article with anti-Semitic expressions. Plame's secret identity was exposed shorty after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.


ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a New Mexico sheriff suspected of showing up under the influence of alcohol to a SWAT standoff and trying to order officers away was arrested Thursday. The Albuquerque Journal says Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan initially refused to comply with the arrest and was taken from his office in handcuffs by Española police officers and Taos County deputies. Court records show Lujan has been charged with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, a felony. A criminal complaint says he smelled like alcohol and appeared to have trouble keeping his balance at the scene of the SWAT incident. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.