An order that eased restrictions on natural gas well locations was suspended last week following public outcry and amid objections from a Texas-based company.
Last November, the state Oil Conservation Commission approved an order that allowed Hilcorp Energy to double the density of oil and gas wells in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico. According to the Santa Fe Reporter, the order was made without notice to local tribes or federal land managers. A request for a rehearing made by the State Land Office and the San Juan Citizens Alliance was initially denied.
But new members in the Commission suspended the order last week until a rehearing can be scheduled. Oil Conservation Commission Chairman Gabriel Wade told reporters that time is needed to allow state regulators review the order and give the public time to comment.
The Houston Chronicle reports Hilcorp attorney Michael Feldewert accused Wade of being underqualified for his position and alleged the suspension is politically-motivated.
State Unemployment Rises in Wake of Shutdown
As the partial government shutdown initiated by President Donald Trump broke a record for longest in the nation's history, hundreds of New Mexicans employed by the federal government applied for unemployment.
Last week officials with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced it would be waiving the work search requirement for any federal employees seeking unemployment for 180 days. Within days, officials told reporters that more than 900 federal employees affected by the shutdown and living in the state had filed for unemployment, according to KOB4.
Any employee who receives unemployment benefits and also receives retroactive pay will be expected to return the benefits. Federal agencies in New Mexico that were affected by the shutdown include Homeland Security, US Department of the Interior, US Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Department of Agriculture.
PNM announced it would not be disconnecting power from any federal employees who could provide a copy of their furlough letter.
City to Turn Rail Yards Into Campus
The City of Albuquerque wants to team up with the Central New Mexico Community College to transform the empty Rail Yards in Downtown into a campus for film students.
According to KRQE, CNM and city officials are looking to convert some of the vacant space at the Rail Yards into the Film Production Center of Excellence, which would include classrooms and filming locations. Last week Mayor Keller and CNM President Katharine Winograd signed a memorandum of understanding committing both parties to the project. In a statement, the mayor said he believes the new campus would “bring access to training and good paying jobs right into the heart of our city.” Officials say they plan to maintain “the cultural and historical significance of the site.”
The project will now have to be approved by the state before plans can move forward.