Last week the mayor announced that the city's rapid transit project will be put on hold due to the mechanical failure of numerous buses.
According to KRQE, the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project will be grounded until inspectors assess the city's 15 $1.2 million electric buses for equipment malfunctions. During a news conference last week, Mayor Tim Keller told reporters that mechanical problems had been discovered in a number of buses when the city began training bus drivers for the route in September. Director of transit Bernie Toon said bolts would fall off of the buses during operation, and rear doors would open without any action by the driver. It was also found that the center and rear brakes on some of the buses had zero air pressure, and the vehicles were relying on the front brakes alone to stop.
The Chinese company that manufactured the buses, BYD (Build Your Dreams), told the Albuquerque Journal that it disagrees with the mayor's assessment, saying its buses “are safe and built to strict Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and have passed FMVSS brake testing and all other testing required for revenue service.”
Keller says the inspection process should take about a month to complete. Depending on the outcome, he said the city might consider working with another bus company.
Padilla Embezzlement Case Going to Trial
A judge ruled last week that former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla will face embezzlement allegations in court.
The Associated Press reports Magistrate Judge Donna Bevacqua-Young listened to witness testimony for five days before ruling that there was enough evidence against Padilla to move forward with a trial. The former tax official will face felony charges of embezzlement and using a government position for personal gain as well as misdemeanor charges of violating state ethics laws. A second charge of embezzlement was dropped.
One of the first Cabinet appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez in 2010, Padilla was accused of embezzling more than $25,000 from a previous employer by Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office in June. She could face up to 16 years in prison and as much as $20,000 in fines if convicted of all charges.
BLM Lease Sale Faces Conservationist Complaint
Two environmentalists groups filed a formal complaint against the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management, claiming that its plan to lease public land for oil and gas development does not provide adequate controls to limit methane waste.
Today Environmental Defense Fund and The Wilderness Society filed the protest jointly, accusing BLM of putting industry interests ahead of New Mexico residents' safety. The formal protest claims development in the area could lead to $16.5 million worth of natural gas waste and over 81,000 tons of harmful pollution per year over the next decade.
The groups say they aren't looking to stop the lease sale, but are advocating that better measures to prevent leaks and reduce venting be implemented. They also wish to see requirements for facility inspections.