A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Community Coalition Fights For Environmental Justice By Mark Schiller
Environment Secretary Refuses to Renegotiate LANL Cleanup By Mark Schiller
Update on the Aamodt Adjudication Settlement By Kay Matthews
Mobile Matanza Update By Mark Schiller
2007 Legislative Session: It's Finally Over By Kay Matthews and Max Schiller
By Mark Schiller
For the last eight years members of the Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County (CCWMMC) have been fighting the Northeastern New Mexico Regional Landfill (NENMRL), a privately owned solid waste facility located just outside the village of Wagon Mound, over a Special Waste Permit that would allow the landfill to accept "packing house and killing plant offal; wastewater treatment plant sludge and other sludges; industrial solid waste; lead paint; asbestos; residue from the spills of chemical substances or commercial products; petroleum contaminated soils; and ash." CCWMMC member and spokesperson Sofia Martinez told La Jicarita that the community of Wagon Mound and other neighboring Mora County rural villages believe that permitting the landfill to include these types of waste poses a health hazard to community members and is a form of "environmental racism."
Martinez explained that the issue began in the early 90s when environmental standards were raised and the local landfills were closed. With neither the money nor the know-how to establish and run a landfill that could meet the needs of the primarily rural communities in the tri-county region (Mora, San Miguel and Colfax counties), county administrators responded favorably to local rancher Harold Daniels' proposal to operate a "regional landfill" on approximately 300 acres of his ranch outside of Wagon Mound. According to Martinez, Daniels promised that the landfill would only serve regional needs, include no hazardous materials, and create 35 jobs for local community members.
With the support of county officials, the landfill was issued a permit by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and opened in March of 1997. However, Martinez asserts that Daniels and Herzog Incorporated, which administers the landfill for Daniels (Herzog directs six solid waste landfills throughout the United States including facilities in San Diego County, California; Grand Junction, Colorado; Wichita, Kansas; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota) have failed to make good on their promises. In the first place, the landfill does not simply serve the tri-county region but accepts waste from throughout the United States, and Herzog Incorporated actively solicits business from Mexico and Canada as well. Second, the landfill has created only a few local jobs rather than the 35 that were promised: there are currently two full-time local employees, and part-time and contract local employees vary, but the total number of employees of all types has never exceeded five. Most importantly, in September of 1999 NENMRL applied for and received a Special Waste Permit from NMED that allowed it (until it was rescinded in 2003) to accept all the dangerous "special wastes" listed above. When NENMRL received its Special Waste Permit, local residents realized they had been deceived and their communities' health was endangered. As a result, local activists organized CCWMMC in order to get the permit rescinded.
The community action group fought a four-year battle and ultimately prevailed in 2003 when the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled that NENMRL gave insufficient public notice of their Special Waste Permit application. NMED then held public hearings to reconsider the permit and Environment Secretary Ron Curry, overruling the recommendation of the hearing officer, denied the application, citing five deficiencies: 1) failed to detail the anticipated amount and frequency of the special waste it proposed to accept, in violation of its permit; 2) failed to include the maximum volume of the ash and asbestos cells, in violation of the regulations; 3) failed to update its closure and post-closure care plans and financial assurance for receipt of solid waste, in violation of the regulations; 4) insufficient information was submitted concerning NENMRL's proposed modifications for updating its transportation plan; and 5) NENMRL's past failure to comply with its permit required denial of the application for permit modification. Commenting on this final deficiency, Secretary Curry said, " . . . during the time NENMRL was previously permitted to receive special waste, it mischaracterized this special waste on numerous instances. Testimony indicated that during 2001 approximately half of the total waste received by NENMRL was characterized as 'Other Waste,' although a large part of this waste was probably special waste (petroleum contaminated soils)."
Martinez also notes that after the Cerro Grande fire in Los Alamos, the landfill "received over 2,000 cubic tons of asbestos contaminated ash . . . ." She asserts that this amounts to environmental racism because Los Alamos County is the richest, most predominantly Anglo county in the state with an unemployment rate of less than two percent and an average income that exceeds $86,000 per year, while Mora County, which is eighty percent Hispano, is among the poorest counties in the state with an unemployment rate that fluctuates between fourteen and twenty-five per cent and an average income of approximately $13,000 per year. "Why should our communities be impacted by their toxic legacy?" she told La Jicarita. "They created it, they benefited from it, they should have the responsibility of dealing with it."
Moreover, the issue of environmental racism with regard to the location of landfills that receive toxic and hazardous waste is not limited to Wagon Mound. Many such landfills are relegated to minority communities because those communities simply don't have the resources to oppose them. The predominantly Hispano community of Sunland Park, located between Las Cruces and El Paso, fought a similar battle over its landfill, which accepted and incinerated medical waste that caused air pollution and sickened many local residents.
Martinez went on to explain that the landfill is not the only problem Wagon Mound has had with Harold Daniels. The village is dependent on the Santa Clara Spring for its domestic water and was granted a "Perpetual Water Right" for its use by the state. The spring, however, has its origin on land owned by Daniels wife's family, and he's challenged the village's right to the water in State District Court, the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and the State Supreme Court. So far the village has been able to prevail, but village residents are concerned that Daniels, who they say is "clearly motivated by money," will continue to seek exclusive right to the spring's water.
Unfortunately, the battle over the Special Waste Permit is not over either. Licenses for landfills must be renewed every ten years, and NMED is currently reviewing NENMRL's renewal application. NMED Communication Director, Marissa Stone, confirmed that Daniels and Herzog Incorporated have renewed their efforts to modify their permit so that the landfill can again accept "special waste." Once NMED'S review is complete, a hearing will be held in Wagon Mound to solicit public comment on the application. CCWMMC is asking New Mexico residents to contact the NMED and urge it not to allow NENMRL to expand its permit to include Special Waste. Readers can contact NMED communications director Marissa Stone at 827-0314. For additional information regarding CCWMMC, contact Sofia Martinez at 505-877-5381.
By Mark Schiller
Senator Pete Domenici, who's predicated much of his political popularity on the billions of dollars of federal pork barrel money he's been able to channel to the state's biggest employer, Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), now claims that facility can't meet benchmarks for the cleanup of sixty years of hazardous waste the lab has generated because of lack of funding. In March 2005 LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) signed a consent order (agreement) that specifically detailed a schedule for the lab to clean up more than 700 hazardous waste sites on lab property. Since then, NMED has assessed LANL $240,000 in fines for not meeting that schedule. Senator Domenici now says that the consent order should be "amended" because the federal government hasn't allocated LANL the necessary funds to meet the agreement's schedule. According to Domenici's office, the senator spoke with federal Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman who, he said, instructed federal officials "to meet with Governor Bill Richardson and the NMED to try to set new cleanup responsibilities that are consistent with realistic budget requests."
Ron Curry, New Mexico Secretary of the Environment, however, responded to Domenici by saying, "These initial penalties and fines that have been levied against the lab have nothing to do with the shortfall, [but] everything to do with management and management's attitude." He further maintained, "We are not interested in renegotiating the consent order. Our position remains the same."
Ironically, Domenici and the lab are trying to "poor mouth" the state while LANL has a budget that exceeds two billion dollars (rivaling the budget for the entire state of New Mexico) and has received funding to expand programs that will increase its production of hazardous wastes. Moreover, this occurs at a time when the lab's management is also under fire for its inability to account for previous funding and serious security lapses.
La Jicarita News applauds Secretary Curry's decision to defend the Public welfare of New Mexico in the face of what is obviously considerable political pressure (see "Environmntal Justice" article beginning on page 1 for a story about another principled decision Secretary Curry made regarding a landfill in northeastern New Mexico). We urge readers to call or write NMED and the governor's office to voice their support of Secretary Curry and demand that the state hold LANL responsible for its legacy of hazardous waste and lack of fiscal oversight (NMED phone number, 505 827-2855; communication director Marissa Stone, 827-0314; governor's website, www.governor.state.nm.us).
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced at the beginning of March that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, not Los Alamos National Laboratory, will get the contract to develop the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a new nuclear weapon design to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This announcement raises questions regarding LANL's role in the nuclear weapons industry in general and the Complex 2030, which would consolidate all plutonium activities at one DOE site. Opponents of the Reliable Replacement Warhead claim that the existing stockpile of weapons is perfectly reliable, that plutonium bomb cores, or pits, have a much longer lifespan than previously believed, and this development constituents an abrogation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Representative Tom Udall released a statement saying, " . . . I am concerned how this new weapon affects our obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, because we need to be reducing the number of weapons, not creating new ones."
An organization of concerned Santa Fe County citizens is urging anyone in the county with wells, acequia rights, or mutual domestic membership to protest the county's application to transfer water rights to 17 wells in an area ranging from south of Española to La Cienega and east to Eldorado and Highway 14 South. Protests can be made at the website www.nmwaterinfo.org. For further information you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Paul White at 988-1082.
By Kay Matthews
Over the last several years La Jicarita News has given extensive coverage to the controversial Aamodt adjudication of water rights in the Pojoque/Nambe/Tesuque Basin. In 2004 a group of non-Pueblo residents formed the Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance (PBWA) in opposition to the proposed settlement and hired attorney Fred Waltz to represent non-Pueblo well owners at settlement negotiations. PBWA members are not signatories of the settlement, signed in May, 2006, (the federal government has yet to sign the agreement as well) and they feel that many of their concerns have been given only cursory attention.
On November 6, 2006, the settlement parties submitted a motion to U.S. District Judge Martha Vasquez, who presides over the adjudication, to establish procedures for 1) Approval of the Settlement Agreement; 2) Entry of a Partial Final Decree; 3) Entry of Interim Administrative Order; and 4) Entry of a Final Decree. If the Court ultimately approves the settlement, it will enter a Partial Final Decree quantifying the Pueblo water rights and an Interim Administrative Order, which will allow the State Engineer to administer water rights in the basin according to the terms of the settlement. The Court will then adjudicate all of the non-Pueblo water rights as outlined in the various subfile orders consistent with the settlement agreement. Non-Pueblo water right holders will be able to object to the subfile orders of other non-Pueblo right holders, but the Pueblo rights adjudicated by the process would be immune from challenge. Finally, the Court will enter a Final Decree that will incorporate the Partial Final Decree, the Interim Administrative Order, and all the non-Pueblo subfile orders.
In response to the motion to establish procedures, Chupadero resident and PBWA board member Paul White filed an objection as a pro se party (representing himself) to the Aamodt adjudication. White has been outspoken in his criticism of the settlement. His objections include: the agreement will open the door to further development and loss of agricultural lands within the Pojoaque Valley; the process has been inherently undemocratic because certain parties to the suit have had inadequate representation during the negotiations; and the settlement is premature because there remain substantive, unresolved issues. White's objection to the November 6 motion is based on the following points:
1. Objectors to the motion should not have to show "how he will be injured in a legally cognizable way." Any holder of water rights in the Pojoaque Basin has standing to assert that the settlement is contrary to the public welfare and is not consistent with applicable law.
2. The adjudication hearings are before Federal District Judge Martha Vasquez and any objections to the motion should be heard before her, not the Magistrate Judge, as called for in the motion.
3. Non-settlement parties (PBWA members and other parties to the adjudication who have not signed the agreement) cannot be bound by an inadequate procedure dictated by the settlement parties.
4. The motion improperly shifts the burden to the objector to prove that the settlement is not fair instead of keeping the burden where it should be, on the settling parties, to show that the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable. White claims the negotiations have been conducted with preferential treatment for the Pueblo attorneys, and certain attorneys involved in the negotiations are "conflicted" and represent both sides of the adjudication.
5. The motion is premature. Some issues have not been resolved and language in the settlement which has been signed by the settling parties is being revised.
6. The Department of Justice has not faithfully applied the "Policy of Federal Participation in Indian Water Rights Negotiations", which states, "negotiations should be conducive to long-term harmony and cooperation among all the interested parties." The settlement has clearly pitted Pueblo residents against non-Pueblo residents. Moreover, this federal policy does not support negotiations that are closed to the public, as in the Aamodt adjudication.
7. The motion violates due process. Other previously notified defendants not represented by counsel have not received notice of the motion. Because this motion raises substantive issues notice must be given to all parties.
White's conclusion states: "If approved by the Court the Settlement will affect the lives of thousands of people for a very long time. Therefore it requires careful scrutiny to determine whether its approval is justified. Along with whether the settlement is fair, adequate, reasonable, contrary to the public interest, and legal, the Court must explore the settlement's effects on third parties to ensure that they are 'neither unreasonable nor proscribed.' The process outlined in the Motion does not give objectors sufficient procedural protections to ensure that valid concerns will be heard, nor does it give the Court the proper framework to judge the wisdom of adopting the settlement. Therefore, the Motion should be denied."
In January 2007 the other parties to the settlement responded to White's motion, essentially rejecting all his points. (The response was written by Pojoaque Pueblo attorney Maria O'Brien with electronic approval by Tesuque, Nambe, and San Illdefonso pueblos, the Office of the State Engineer, and the city and county of Santa Fe.) The response claims that the procedures comply with due process and all other applicable law and that the proposed process "establishes a clear mechanism for any water right owner claiming to be injured by the Settlement Agreement to come before the Court and demonstrate why the settlement is not fair, adequate or reasonable."
Negotiations of the settlement parties continue to address unresolved issues: impairment funding, state legislation; water master rules and regulations, and cost sharing. The state and federal governments continue to seek funding to implement the settlement. In the meantime, the judge must still make a ruling on White's motion.
By Mark Schiller
The Mobile Matanza (see the October 2006 La Jicarita News for more information about the unit), a truck-mounted mobile slaughterhouse administered by the Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC), demonstrated its facilities on February 23 at the Arroyo Seco ranch of Judge Erminio Martinez. Both a cow and a lamb were slaughtered, skinned, and hung in the truck's refrigeration unit. Marlene Torrez, Programs Manager for TCEDC, told La Jicarita that she expects the second part of this operation, a hanging, cutting, and packaging facility at TCEDC's headquarters on Salazar Road in Taos, to be in place by mid April. The goal of the program, which is being underwritten by grants from the state and federal governments and private foundations, is to provide an on site, affordable, state inspected slaughtering service and state of the art processing facility that allows northern New Mexico ranchers to directly market their meat and pocket a larger percentage of the profits.
TCEDC had hoped to have the facilities operational by the end of March, but Torrez explained that full implementation of the project has been delayed by two setbacks. First, the initial project manager, Lee Knox, had to resign because of a family emergency. Gilbert Suazo, Jr. of Taos Pueblo has replaced him, and Victor Mascareñas has been hired as the butcher/driver. The two men must now complete training in use of the facility and meat handling safety. Second, the architect who designed the processing facility became ill causing a two-week delay in the construction of that building.
While the project obviously provides economic benefits for local small-scale ranchers who have been marginalized by the corporate, feedlot meat industry and increasingly restrictive grazing management programs of the Forest Serviced and BLM (which, ironically, misappropriated much of the land they (mis)manage from community land grants), it also has other significant benefits. All or most of the livestock processed by this facility will be grassfed and not treated with growth hormones and antibiotics as feedlot stock is. That makes it healthier and more nutritious. Moreover, as transportation costs rise, locally raised and processed meat is becoming increasingly competitive financially. Finally, by making small scale ranching more economically viable, the project maintains the customs and traditions of our Native American and Indo-Hispano communities, keeps families whose ties to the land go back hundreds of years in their communities, and keeps land and water that might otherwise go towards commercial development (subdivisions and golf courses) in agricultural use.
Apparently, however, not everyone shares these sentiments. After an article about the Mobile Matanza appeared in The New Mexican several bloggers offered comments such as: "I get a little tired of all the subsidies we taxpayers provide so that people can keep their rural way of life. Who ever said that, as a taxpayer, I [am] responsible for maintaining someone else's rural, traditional lifestyle? Many of us go into debt to attend college and move to where the jobs are so that, what, we can help pay for programs to keep alive a romantic notion of the past?" Unfortunately, this kind of ignorance continues to fuel the rural/urban divide that prevents people who clearly share class interests from uniting to battle the real villain, the forces of corporate, capitalist greed. Considering that both the state and federal governments give millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives that only benefit big business, urban development, and corporations, and the federal government is currently spending eight billion dollars a month and sacrificing the lives of our children, both rural and urban, to fight a totally unjustifiable war, I'd say these bloggers hostility is misdirected.
Furthermore, Taos County Economic Development Corporation is one of the few groups actively promoting economic development in northern New Mexico that has a successful track record. Its agricultural development programs and commercial kitchen have already spawned successful businesses that demonstrate small scale farming and ranching can be economically viable. La Jicarita will continue to monitor the progress of this project and readers can determine the benefits for themselves.
By Kay Matthews and Max Schiller
Editor's Note: The legislative session, which we at La Jicarita News refer to as the "Black Hole," is finally over. It saps the time and energy of many people as very few substantive bills get passed while a lot of good bills fall by the wayside. It's very difficult for the public to evaluate the legislation during the session: we are inundated with e-mails and press releases extolling or bemoaning bills from various interest groups. The following overview tries to highlight some of the bills and memorials-good and bad-that are important to norteños. On page 5 Max Schiller, our son, who is 18 years old and an intern for the American Civil Liberties Union, provides his overview of this year's session. To find out the final status of these bills (we went to press on March 13, before the end of the session) check out the website www.legis.state.nm.us.
Senate Joint Memorial 38, Recognizing the Significance of Indigenous Agricultural Practice and Native Seeds to New Mexico's Cultural Heritage and Food Security, was introduced by norteño Senator Carlos Cisneros.
The memorial stresses the important history of New Mexico's native foods and crops, which are the result of the intermixing of Mesoamerican, Pueblo, tribal, and Hispano cultures and for centuries have provided the basis for local food production. Traditional agriculture and seed saving is part of a culture characterized by the communal work of families cleaning acequias, preparing fields, and participating in ceremonies and blessings.
Today, many of these practices are at risk. New Mexico has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. Corporations are manipulating seeds, animals, and wild plants through genetic engineering, the effects of which have not been adequately studied. These corporation are patenting genetic material and the processes of genetic modification, and have claims on seeds that prohibit farmers from continuing the seed-saving practices of their ancestors. Genetically engineered crops such as maize in Oaxaca, Mexico, and canola in Canada, have escaped into the environment and contaminated native seeds and wild plants. Corporations have sued individual farmers when corporate-owned genetic material has drifted to neighboring fields and crops.
Countries such as Japan and England, and some countries in Africa, have refused genetically modified foods and prohibit the introduction of genetically engineered crops on their lands because of the unknown health effects. Here in New Mexico, farmers from Pueblo and acequia communities have come together for ceremonial seed exchanges and to make a declaration of seed sovereignty between the traditional Native American Farmers Association and the New Mexico Acequia Association. Resolutions in support of seed sovereignty have been passed by the pueblos of Tesuque and Pojoaque, the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council, the All Indian Pueblo Council, and the National Congress of American Indians. The Native American Farmers Association and the New Mexico Acequia Association have formed the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance and are seeking to protect native seeds from genetic contamination, increase the cultivation of native seeds and the raising of small herds of livestock, support traditional farming and ranching with financial and education resources, and increase the extent to which locally grown food is served within the same community.
Memorial 38 endorses these efforts and also requests that the New Mexico Department of Agriculture collaborate with the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance in supporting traditional farmers and protecting native seeds.
Senate Bill 901 addresses the recent Office of the State Engineer's (OSE) 2006 Domestic Well Water Regulations that prohibit transfers of domestic well rights to mutual domestic water systems (the OSE regulations have been challenged in court by a coalition of groups, see La Jicarita News, October 2006). This bill would ensure that these mutual domestics can acquire needed water rights to provide clean drinking water to their communities and protect acequia water rights.
House Bill 230 provides funding to help acequia commissions with workshops and technical help from the New Mexico Acequia Association. The bill seeks $500,000 to help write bylaws, establish open meeting procedures, and seek funds for the rehabilitation of ditches.
House Bill 827 was introduced to protect land owners affected by oil and gas development on their land. The bill will require the oil and gas industry to notify landowners 30 days prior to any drilling operations, to describe the operations, and to propose a surface use and compensation agreement. The landowner then has 20 days to accept, negotiate, or reject the offer. If no agreement is reached, a bond must be posted before operations begin and the landowner retains the right to bring legal action within six years if land damage occurs. This bill passed both houses.
Senate Joint Memorial 10, sponsored by Senator David Ulibarri, who represents Cibola, Socorro, and Valencia Counties, instructs the New Mexico Environment and Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources departments to "collaborate with the New Mexico uranium industry to resolve existing barriers in order to advance consideration of uranium production."
Senate Joint Memorial 47, sponsored by Shannon Robinson, opposes the research, design, and production of new nuclear weapons in New Mexico. The memorial cites Article 6 of the United States Constitution, which states that treaties are the supreme law of the land, and Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which calls for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.
House Bill 744, introduced by Ben Lujan, will appropriate $100,000 for a pilot project intended to increase agricultural production in northern New Mexico through farmer outreach and education. The project is designed to address some of the most basic challenges facing small-scale farmers such as implementing farming techniques that are sustainable for the local conditions and adapting to new marketing opportunities. The project will link local farmers seeking to start or expand production with local experts who have successful farming operations.
The 2007 legislative session has been one of the most active on the books. In addition to the fact that the Democratic majority in the House and Senate is one of the most significant the party has held, our governor is running a campaign for president and legislators are trying to keep up with the times as both society and technology change. The most significant pieces of legislation include: Prohibit Cockfighting, Senate Bill 10 (Mary Jane M. Garcia D- Dona Ana); Medical Marijuana, Senate Bill 523 (Shannon Robinson D-Albuquerque); Real ID, House Joint Memorial 13 (Ken Martinez, D-Cibola, McKinley & San Juan) and Senate Joint Memorial 11 (Michael Sanchez, D- Valencia); Abolish the Death Penalty, House Bill 190 (Gail Chasey, D- Bernalillo); Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities, House Bill 603 (Mimi Stewart, D-Bernalillo); and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, Senate Bill 418 (Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia).
The medical marijuana law was nearly killed earlier in the session when Senate Bill 238, the Lynn & Erin Compassionate Use Act, was voted down in the House, 32-37, following a controversial tied vote in which Representative Al Park (D-Albuquerque) missed voting to pass the bill because he had to promote his smoking ban bill in another committee. After Park requested that the bill be voted on again, several representatives changed their votes and the bill was killed. Many thought this would be the end of the medical marijuana option for this year. However, with the governor's support, another bill, Senate Bill 523, which originally allowed for only topical use of cannabis, was changed to include the provisions of Senate Bill 238 allowing for medical marijuana usage. The bill passed the Senate 32-3 and will next face the House.
In the past, Prohibit Cockfighting was consistently killed in the Senate Conservation Committee. This year, however, with the support of presidential candidate Richardson, it was passed on a vote of 5-3 and subsequently passed by both houses. It makes New Mexico the second to last state-Louisiana is the other-to ban the deadly sport and is a major victory for animal lobbyists.
Real ID is an unfunded mandate passed in a midnight session of the recently adjourned Republican-controlled Congress. It requires people to obtain a new identification card in order to enter airports or federal buildings, open a bank account, or obtain a driver's license. In addition to costing the state an estimated $37 million to implement, the program would pose a burden on the elderly and immigrants who don't always have the documentation, such as a birth certificate, necessary to obtain an ID. Additionally, this ID would contain many people's personal information and make them more susceptible to identity theft. If passed, House Joint Memorial 13 and Senate Joint Memorial 11 would constitute a significant step to the eventual repeal of Real ID.
House Bill 190, Abolish the Death Penalty, is another controversial matter that could potentially pass. This bill, if enacted, would make New Mexico the thirteenth state, plus the District of Columbia, to discontinue its use of the death penalty and allow for the option of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The bill has strong support in the House, where it was passed, but remains in limbo in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it has failed in the past. As of yet, Governor Bill Richardson has not taken a stand on this issue; traditionally, he has not supported abolishing the death penalty.
Another piece of legislation is House Bill 603, which allows for the creation of domestic partnerships, under which unwed partners could receive the rights traditionally reserved for married people, such as insurance coverage and the right to make burial and other arrangements following their partners' death. As opposed to House Bill 190, this bill will likely receive the governor's support and therefore has a better chance to pass.
The final bill I will review, which has already passed, is Senate bill 418, Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. This bill will dramatically increase our renewable energy resources: it requires that at least 15 percent of an electric utility's power supply comes from renewable energy sources by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020. Governor Bill Richardson has expressed great enthusiasm about the bill. "I am proud to sign a bill that will quadruple New Mexico's use of clean electricity by 2020," he said in a press conference after the bill was passed. Certainly the bill, which makes New Mexico one of the country's leading states in the use of renewable energy, will be a step forward in lessening New Mexico's oil dependence.
-By Max Schiller
Copyright 1996-2006 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.