Alibi V.25 No.4 • Jan 28-Feb 3, 2016 

Newscity

WIPP Settlement Finalized

News City
Robert Maestas

As reported here in News City back in November, the State of New Mexico Environment Department has been seeking a large financial settlement with the federal Department of Energy after a radiation leak closed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in early 2014. Late last week, negotiations between the two agencies were completed, to the benefit of the state. Meanwhile, the nuclear storage facility near Carlsbad, N.M. will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The $74 million settlement relates to events at WIPP and at Los Alamos National Laboratory that led up to the release of radiation. Both sites are under the aegis of the DOE; DOE contractors working at these sites were part of the legal claims arising from the leak, according to published reports. Essentially the agreement tasks the DOE with providing scheduling and funding for supplemental environmental projects in Carlsbad and Los Alamos. $34 million will go toward improving N.M. roads used in the transport of transuranic waste, $4 million will go towards building an off-site emergency operations center near WIPP, $1 million has been earmarked to provide training to local emergency responders and $12 million will be made available to improve federally-owned transportation routes used to ship hot materials to WIPP. Speaking to the settlement, NM Governor Susana Martinez remarked to the news daily in Los Alamos, “The funds New Mexico will receive through this agreement will help ensure the future safety and success of these facilities, the people who work at them and their local communities. We look forward to continuing to work with the federal government to ensure the safety and success of both LANL and WIPP.”

Anti-Crime Bills on Agenda

State legislative leadersmostly Republicanare proposing a host of strict anti-crime measures this week as the New Mexico Legislature begins its yearly tenure at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. So far, the only bill getting bipartisan support is a bail reform measure that would give the state's judiciary the power to deny bail to suspects deemed “high risk” while also providing the means to change New Mexico law to allow pre-trial releasesans bailto those suspected of being involved in non-violent crimes. Though this bill has received support from both sides of the legislative aisle, bail bond companies strongly oppose no-bail releases. Otherwise, the law and order measures reflect a strict return to conservative legal means of preventing crime and include strengthening the three strikes law in effect in New Mexico to include a larger array of violent felonies whose violation would make habitual offenders eligible for long-term imprisonment, a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco (R-Albuquerque). Also under consideration is legislation written by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) that would make attacks on police officers a hate crime. Gentry told the Washington Post that his effort is the result of a realization that “our protectors need additional protection.” Another bill proffered by Pacheco would establish mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes like voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, assault on a police officer or involvement in drive-by shootings is also on the agenda at this year's legislative meeting.