Environmentalists aim to kill Native American jobs

In this week's Intelligencer, environmentalists target Native Americans, Native Americans clash with Senate Democrats, schools in New Mexico are seeing fewer students, more state officials accused of misconduct, and legislators baffled by mystery purchase.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

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Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. Environmentalists target New Mexico Tribes for Big Green’s war on coal

Details: Public Regulation Commission Hearing Examiner Anthony Medeiros presented evidence that a proposal to allow Navajo Transitional Energy Co. to take over PNM’s interest in Four Corners Power Plant would save PNM customers money, reduce carbon emissions, and help the Navajo Nation. But environmentalists want to shut down the plant – even though the closure would leave hundreds of tribal members without jobs. Environmentalists have also targeted Navajo operations in Arizona and San Juan County in New Mexico.

Meanwhile: As PNM’s much hyped merger with Avangrid was denied by the PRC, PNM purchased Western Spirit, a 155 miles long wind energy transmission line, for $285 million. The California based company Pattern Energy will rent energy to be sent there. But some experts say wind and solar can only supply “25 to 30% of our energy needs…even then, you better have 100% backup from other energy sources…wind and solar still rely on petroleum for their materials.”

Tax increases: MLG is pushing hard again for a huge tax hike on gasoline via the Clean Fuel Standard Act. According to the state Environment Department, the bill would drive up the cost 35 cents per gallon  – and it won’t even make fuel cleaner, according to the EPA. In addition to that tax increase, senate Democrats are going to try again for a new tax increase on gasoline, which will hurt working families the most.

Lastly, the New Mexico Gas Company will request the PRC to allow a 9.1 percent increase for the average New Mexican’s monthly bill, which would take effect in January 2023, to pay for “initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas” among other things.

2. State Senate cancels floor session to block vote on redistricting map

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Details: A senate committee passed a substitute bill for SB2, a redistricting map for New Mexico’s 42 Senate districts. The substitute angered proponents of the original map, which was endorsed by several alliances, including left-wing activist groups and Native American groups. Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart said the new version was a result of working with the Senate minority to prevent Republican senators from being paired with each other.

What they’re saying: “Our [Tribal] voice was often ignored…our people suffered extreme voter discrimination and lack access to representation which champions the issues at the heart of our survival,” Pueblo of Zia Governor Jerome Lucero said.

“I don’t see that these changes would make it so that Native American voters are not able to select the candidate of their choice, which is what we’re going for here,” Sen. Katy Duhigg (D) responded.  

The big picture: The main pitch for the original map is to increase Native American influence in elections as Tribal leaders express dissatisfaction with public education, access to basic infrastructure, and economic opportunity. But because Tribal voters lean strongly Democrat, some think the map is designed to hurt Republicans. Ironically, the party responsible for the policies the tribes are dissatisfied with is the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, at the capitol 150 people led by the radical left-wing group OLÉ celebrated the passage of the Congressional map that, if MLG signs it, will turn the conservative CD2 into a Democrat-friendly district; State Rep. Greg Nibert (R) and Sandoval County Commission Chairman Dave Heil are criticizing major aspects of the process.

3. “In some cases they’re staying home. Some may be in private schools. And some… we wonder if they’ve left the state.” –Albuquerque Superintendent Scott Elder

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Details: In spite of reopening classrooms, New Mexico public schools have still not recovered from the 4% drop in enrollment during the government’s COVID lockdown. NMPED says enrollment from pre-K to high school showed a net decrease of 13 students – far below school officials’ expectations. Last year home school enrollment went from 8,800 to 15,400 and accounted for about half of the enrollment decline throughout New Mexico.

Why it matters: Since schools get their funding based on the number of enrolled students, the decrease in students is likely to translate into a decrease in funding. For example, last year the Albuquerque Public Schools’ $35 million budget deficit was propped up with one-time federal monies.

Meanwhile: UNM is expanding their recent vaccination requirement, that all employees and students must get a COVID-19 booster shot by January 17, which applies to anyone eligible for booster shots. UNM might allow some religious and medical-based exemptions. Part of the reason for UNM’s “over 90 percent” vax rate is because of their purge of 256 students for non-compliance.

4. “There is a contract on the ranch [L Bar Ranch], we don’t know who signed the contract, we don’t know anything. The total price is like $33 million.” –Sen. George Muñoz

Details: The state legislature held a special session last week to investigate why there was $5 million in funds appropriated to the Department of Game and Fish.

What they’re saying: “I guess I would first like to begin by expressing my surprise at the inclusion of the $5 million appropriation for property acquisition statewide,” said Director of the Department of Game and Fish, Michael Sloane.

“It leaves us to believe that maybe it’s the environmental groups that are part of the process in purchasing that land – we’ve even heard maybe it’s some rogue game commissioner that has tried to include this in the budget without overall approval from the game commission itself,” said Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Dona Ana).

The big picture: With a billion dollars of federal slush fund money, Democrats in control of the legislature want to spend $100 million in “alternative broadband” and are considering how else to spend the cash; the Senate's priorities differ from the priorities of the House. Stay tuned to see where the money will ultimately go.

5. State government officials accused of heinous acts and corruption

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Details: On Tuesday, the CFO of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department was charged with secretly using a camera disguised as a USB power adapter to record a 12-year-old girl who was getting undressed in the bathroom, “in both her home and his.” He is on administrative leave but has not been arrested.

The girl had previously told school officials he had touched her “inappropriately,” and detectives investigating the claim were concerned she was “possibly being ‘groomed’ for future sexual abuse.” A spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declined to comment on the allegations and referred questions to the Indian Affairs Department.

Meanwhile: An Albuquerque Solid Waste Department employee who was supposed to be spraying and pulling weeds was caught repeatedly sleeping on the job while parked as the engine was idling, sometimes for four to six hours of an eight-hour shift, wasting $400 in fuel while getting paid thousands of dollars for time not actually worked. The employee was reassigned and “no longer operates city vehicles or equipment.”

Why it matters: The Inspector General’s report also said that “overall, the Department’s practices are significantly lacking in internal controls with policies and procedures and general oversight deficiencies which make the City susceptible to fraud, waste, and abuse.”

These two incidents show that the government is not inherently better than the private sector, which is a premise that undergirds the mentality behind the Left’s state-centric policies.