- GOVERNOR'S AGENDA-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is enthusiastically backing recreational marijuana and hoping to crack down on predatory lending as she outlines a list of top priorities for 2021 legislative session. The endorsements she made Wednesday include authorization and taxation of recreational cannabis and an effort to shore up abortion rights. Lujan Grisham also wants a proposed constitutional amendment to tap more money for education from a state trust. The ouster of several conservative Democratic senators in 2020 elections increases chances for those initiatives during the legislative session that starts Tuesday. For pandemic relief, the governor wants restaurant alcohol deliveries permitted and an overhaul of liquor license regulations.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials say they have detected the first known case of a more contagious variant of COVID-19. The state Health Department announced Wednesday that a man in his 60s who traveled to the United Kingdom in December has the variant. Officials described the man's illness as mild and said no hospitalization was required. Meanwhile, hospitalizations related to the coronavirus have decreased. Health officials say some counties have seen improvements in the rate of spread and positive tests. However, only Harding and Union counties are able to relax some public health requirements. The rest remain in the higher risk category.
- MINE SPILL-SETTLEMENTS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Navajo Nation and the state of New Mexico have settled with mining companies to resolve claims stemming from a 2015 spill that sent wastewater rushing downstream from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado. Under the settlements announced Wednesday, Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company will pay the tribe $10 million and the state $11 million. State and tribal officials say they are now waiting on the federal government to take responsibility. A federal contracting crew triggered the spill while working at the site. The spill released 3 million gallons of wastewater that fouled rivers in three Western states with a plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO BUSINESS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments as it weighs whether the state must compensate businesses for losses from temporary closures or other public health emergency restrictions. The five-member court delayed a decision Wednesday until a later date with no firm deadline. A coalition of businesses says pandemic restrictions have effectively seized private property from businesses that might otherwise have taken their own precautions against the spread of COVID-19. Their multiple lawsuits characterize the state's public health emergency orders as regulatory taking that merits compensation to businesses. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration says property rights come with limitations concerning the safety of others.
- AP-AZ-VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation officials report 193 additional known COVID-19 cases and three more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak. The additional cases and deaths reported late Tuesday increased the pandemic's totals for the tribe's reservation to 25,576 cases and 874 deaths as of Tuesday. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. The reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
- OIL AND GAS-VIOLATION
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An oil company operating in northwestern New Mexico has agreed to pay a $25,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said Tuesday that a notice of violation had been issued to San Juan Resources, Inc. for failing to report and perform a proper investigation of a well's potentially defective casing. While there were no associated leaks or damages identified at the well in question, state officials said the case highlighted the importance of well integrity and proper reporting. The state Oil Conservation Division also is requiring permanent fixes at the well site.
- SPACE COMMAND
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday that the new U.S. Space Command headquarters will be in Huntsville, Alabama. The state was selected over five others competing for the project. Huntsville is known as Rocket City and has long been home to the Army's Redstone Arsenal and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. The role of the Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and troop communication. That is different from the Space Force, which is a distinct military service. Space Command currently has a provisional headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and state officials there lambasted the move.
- ELK-LAND PURCHASE
QUESTA, N.M. (AP) — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says the acquisition of nearly 1,200 acres of land near the New Mexico-Colorado border will go a long way to protect a migration corridor for elk and other animals. The transfer was completed in recent weeks following three years of negotiations with land owners, the foundation and the Bureau of Land Management. The agency paid nearly $800,000 for four private in-holdings located within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos. The money came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.