Rapid Transit Concerns
The city of Albuquerque is one step closer[xurl] to engaging extensive plans to change the scope and practice of rapid transit in the metro area, even as some local business owners worry about the impact construction will have. The $119 million dollar Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will become reality at the expense of shops and services along the Central corridor, say some local proprietors. The city has applied for at least $70 million in start up funds from the US Transit Administration's Small Smarts fund. The feds will decide this week whether or not to go ahead with funding the massive undertaking. Meanwhile, concerns about the project continue to be organized and vociferous. Business owners such as those at Flying Star Restaurants and Nob Hill Music have gone on record as against the plan to re-build Central (especially the Nob Hill District) as a bus-friendly place and Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O'Toole has spoken to the idea that rapid transit and Burque will never co-exist peacefully. Proponents of the massive remodel, like Hizzoner Richard Berry, say the plan is the “next logical step” in local transportation needs.
Cannabis and Compensation
Last week, the New Mexico Legislature's House Judiciary Committee vetted and let move to the floor a bill that would give insurance companies the option of not reimbursing individuals for workers' compensation claims involving the use of medical marijuana. HB 195, introduced by Representative Randal Crowder (R-Clovis) removes the state sanctioned requirement that “medical cannabis be a reimbursable benefit after injury or disablement.” Crowder stated that his primary motivation for moving the legislation forward is grounded in his belief that insurance companies may leave the state rather than be in violation of federal law, which currently views cannabis as an illegal narcotic. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) countered that argument in committee, saying that Republican intentions were shrouded in a “complete, fundamental misunderstanding” of federal marijuana statutes and prosecution priorities. Strongly affective testimony from some of the state's medical cannabis patients led some lawmakers on the committee to state that they would let the bill move forward, but may vote against it if it goes any further.
EPA Generates Report on Spill
This past Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency released an official report on the release of metallic contaminants into the Animas River in August 2015. The three million gallon waste-water spillover from gold mines in Southern Colorado carried poisonous substances such as cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury into New Mexico water systems. The toxic spill was caused by EPA workers engaged in cleanup activities at the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colo. The unfortunate event happened during excavation procedures designed to provide remediation at a site the agency has long treated as problematic. The report says that while some of the metals reached the San Juan River in New Mexico, they have mostly settled to the riverbed and that contaminants have returned to pre-spill levels at this juncture in time. The report also states that EPA researchers discovered pollution hotspots in the Animas and San Juan Rivers that may warrant further study and cleanup efforts.