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Biden administration barrs new oil and gas leases around Chaco Canyon

President Joe Biden announced on Monday that his administration will block federal oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile buffer zone around Chaco Canyon, a sacred Indigenous site in New Mexico. A two-year ban on leasing will be enacted in the coming weeks, which will enable the Bureau of Land Management to conduct environmental analysis and public comment. They will then consider a 20-year withdrawal of drilling on public lands in the region.  “The Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is basically pushing the Bureau of Land Management to do a full environmental assessment of the region, in terms of its impacts relating to oil and gas,” Julia Bernal, director of Pueblo Action Alliance, said. 

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Infrastructure law makes investments in local climate, water

President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was approved by the U.S. Congress in early November and signed into law on Monday, Nov. 15. The bipartisan law, H.R. 3684, is climate-focused and uses a dynamic approach to dispersing funding, with money going to highways, wildfires, electric buses, water and other related projects. New Mexico’s apportionment of the law is $3.7 billion, which will seek to invest in and address vulnerabilities of the state’s water, highway and bridge infrastructure, among other key ventures. University of New Mexico Professor Claude Morelli, scholar of transportation planning and policy at UNM, said the largest cut of New Mexico’s share, $2.5 billion, is going toward highway development. $255 million in the infrastructure package will also address bridge needs across the state as super storms have undermined bridge foundations, causing the collapse of bridges and necessitating more maintenance, according to Morelli.

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Stalking cases increase at UNM

  Reports of stalking made by residents living at the University of New Mexico’s student housing increased by 33%, from 9 cases in 2019 to 12 cases in 2020, even though fewer students were on campus. The rise takes place as stalking has become more virtual, experts said. “A lot of this is a virtual type of stalking where people are being threatened or followed through email communication, text messages or as far as a tracking device on someone's car,” said Matt Suazo, compliance and clery coordinator of UNM’s Office of Equal Opportunity. “There’s this sense of anonymity where people are able to engage in this behavior where they’re not able to be identified or confronted.”


EPA seeks to expand regulations on methane

The Environmental Protection Agency released guidance for tightening methane regulations in early November proposing a series of protections to mitigate the impacts of the oil and natural gas industry nationwide. This comes due to methane’s critical role in advancing the warming of the atmosphere, with emissions having the potential to trap about 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide in the first 20 years following the initial emissions release. To cut down on the methane waste products associated with oil and gas drilling, the EPA seeks to codify actions that would force states to fix leaking production wells and eliminate venting of natural gas for new and existing sites, according to the agency.

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Daily Lobo wins 5 NMPA awards

  The Daily Lobo took home five awards from the New Mexico Press Association’s 2021 Better Newspaper Contest as a Weekly Class 1 news outlet. Entries from July 2020 to June 2021 were judged by the Utah Press Association. In addition, two Lobo staff members were selected among five total New Mexico students to report at NMPA’s pilot College Journalism Workshop at the 112th annual NMPA convention from Oct. 29-30. Beat reporter Gabriel Biadora and multimedia editor Shelby Kleinhans won first place in News Writing for their coverage of unhoused Indigenous woman Jolene Nez’s arrest and subsequent death in Albuquerque.


City council approves Amazon lease at Sunport

On Wednesday, the Albuquerque city council unanimously approved a 10-year ground lease and development agreement between Amazon and the Albuquerque International Sunport. Amazon’s construction of a 31,000-square-foot air cargo facility and the expansion of the Sunport’s cargo apron are expected to be completed next August. Five acres of vacant land surrounding the Sunport will be leased to Amazon for the air cargo facility that will be completely funded by Amazon. The expansion of the cargo apron is also necessary so there is airside access to the facility. This will cost $11.4 million, $6.6 million of which has already been secured in federal funding, according to Albuquerque Director of Aviation Nyika Allen.


Keller reelected as mayor

  Incumbent Tim Keller was reelected as Albuquerque’s mayor on Nov. 2 after receiving 56% of votes and the highly contentious multi-purpose sports stadium bond failed with  65% of voters against it. Keller will start his second term on Jan. 1, 2022. “Albuquerque, tonight you made it clear that we will not face our challenges with fear tactics or false promises,” Keller said in his victory speech. “We will do it with grit and determination, and bold decisions — from the Gateway Center and the Metro Crime Initiative, to the new Community Safety department to being 100% renewable in just five years. Now in the next months and years we are going to dig deep to build the future of Albuquerque." 


Oil, gas prices continue to rise as supply chain lags

  Gasoline in New Mexico is the most expensive it’s been in seven years and continues to rise. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market for gasoline collapsed as demand plummeted. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has yet to fully recover production efforts though in-person commitments and adjacent demand for the product have largely resumed. The higher demand, limited supply and elevated crude oil prices have resulted in the increase of gas prices, according to American Automobile Association New Mexico spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. He said the statewide average cost per gallon throughout New Mexico is around $3.31, which fluctuates daily, and continues to increase each week. Armbruster said the price per gallon this time last year was around $2. 

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New Mexico leaders discuss clean energy transition at climate summit

New Mexico leaders gathered at the first New Mexico Climate Summit at the state Capitol in Santa Fe on Monday and Tuesday, hosted by House Speaker Brian Egolf, where congressional representatives and constituents discussed the need for critical economic investments and ambitious policy goals to propel the state’s transition toward clean energy.  Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said New Mexico is leading the way in undertaking climate-friendly initiatives, outlining her work with the Energy Transition Act and the state’s executive order on climate change and energy waste prevention. “We don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to climate action,” said Sarah Cottrell Propst, Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources.

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Stop the Stadium organizers hold film screening to educate on gentrification

In anticipation of the Nov. 2 vote on a $50 million bond that would fund a multi-purpose sports stadium in Albuquerque, a free screening of “Battle for Brooklyn,” a documentary focused on gentrification, was shown at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice on Tuesday. This event was hosted by Stop the Stadium, a local collection of constituents concerned about the stadium causing potential gentrification in the South Broadway and Barelas neighborhoods. Stop the Stadium wants voters to vote “no” on the bond question, which was emphasized through the documentary that details a neighborhood’s attempts in the Brooklyn borough of New York City to push back on displacement and gentrification caused by real estate development.

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‘Coffee with the Candidates’: Tim Keller pushes for progressive initiatives

On Tuesday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller spoke about progressive political policies that are tied to his mayoral reelection campaign at “Coffee with the Candidates,” an event organized by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico where students got the chance to speak with the current mayoral candidates. Multiple students showed up to discuss Keller’s proposed policies and the work he has accomplished during his past term. As a democratic candidate running for reelection — although the position is officially nonpartisan — Keller highlighted his prior political experience and his push for more progressive initiatives in the city in comparison to his more conservative mayoral opponents. Keller said his more progressive campaign most closely aligns with the values of the general UNM campus population.


Final mayoral debate cements candidates' visions ahead of election

On Sunday, Oct. 24, the three Albuquerque mayoral candidates gathered at the Congregation Albert synagogue for their final debate before the election takes place on Nov. 2. The participants, current Mayor Tim Keller, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzalez and conservative talk show host Eddy Aragon, answered questions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, crime and homelessness. In the opening statements, Keller talked about how well he has handled the pandemic and his prioritization of the health of local citizens. He said he would want to craft a path forward to continue the work he has started in his first term if chosen as mayor again. “During the pandemic, we faced a challenge like we've never seen before,” Keller said. “We made tough decisions to save lives and save livelihoods."

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‘Coffee with the Candidates’: Manny Gonzales wants to solve crime issues

  On Oct. 21, current Bernalillo County Sheriff and Albuquerque mayoral candidate Manny Gonzales met with students at the University of New Mexico for a “Coffee with the Candidates” event organized by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico, talking largely about issues related to crime. Gonzales has worked in law enforcement for almost 28 years, and champions fighting crime as one of his main goals in his mayoral pursuit. Although many of his takes on major issues align with a standard conservative viewpoint and he has worked alongside former President Donald Trump, Gonzales is a registered Democrat. 

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‘Coffee with the Candidates’: Eddy Aragon boasts conservative views

  Albuquerque mayoral candidate Eddy Aragon visited the University of New Mexico at the invitation of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico on Wednesday for a “Coffee with the Candidates” event. After arriving half an hour late, the session began sparsely attended but addressed the main conservative stances that Aragon’s platform supports. Aragon is CEO of “The Rock of Talk,” a conservative radio station that broadcasts out of Albuquerque, and he also hosts the eponymous prime-time show. While the mayoral race is officially nonpartisan, Aragon is the only registered Republican running against two registered Democrats, a contrast he has sought to emphasize.   At the event, Aragon said he opposes COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates unequivocally.

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Fight For Our Lives shuts down permanently

  After three years of civic engagement initiatives dedicated to education, justice and service in the city of Albuquerque, Fight for Our Lives, a student-led organization established to propel social justice causes, announced their self-decided shut-down on Oct. 2.  FFOL was focused on advocating for gun violence prevention in 2018, seeking climate crisis action in 2019 and creating ABQ Mutual Aid in 2020, according to FFOL co-founder Jonathon Juarez-Alonzo. He said on social media that the decision to dissolve the organization was a tough one and that “all good things must come to an end.”  A key legacy of FFOL were the youth involved in the movement’s work, who were able to develop leadership skills through organizing efforts, according to co-founder and former President Zoey Craft. 

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Biden administration announces protection restoration of 3 national monuments

  President Joe Biden announced an executive order to restore protections to three national monuments on Oct. 8 that were previously downsized or completely stripped of protections by former President Donald Trump. This order came with the support of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland as well as an intention to restore ties with the wronged Indigenous tribes whose land and consequently cultures were previously cut down. During his presidency, Trump issued presidential proclamations downsizing two of Utah’s national monuments: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante protections were cut from approximately 1.3 million acres to 228,000 acres and approximately 1.9 million acres to 1 million acres, respectively. 

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Community members rally against $50 million sports stadium bond

  In light of an upcoming vote on bond R-21-187 on Nov. 2,  which would allocate $50 million to construct a multi-purpose sports stadium that would primarily be used by the NM United soccer team, a rally gathered in Albuquerque on Oct. 13 in protest. Organized by the grassroot campaign Stop the Stadium, workers and residents spoke out about the issues of gentrification with the stadium that would heavily impact the Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods. While many that support that bond speak about the positive economic situation it will bring to Albuquerque, there is major contention is the fact that a majority of the funding is publicly financed. 

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The evolution of language within the LGBTQ+ community

  Language is ever-changing, and this is especially true in the LGBTQ+ community. Words, phrases and acronyms have been evolving for decades in response to the call for more inclusive language and taking back a once persecuted identity. In the past decade or so, there’s been a noticeable addition of the word ‘queer’ as an identifier for many in the LGBTQ+ community. The addition of the “Q” (queer) has different implications than the addition of the “B” (bisexual) or the “T” (transgender) because, according to sociolinguistic researcher Remy Attig, who holds a doctorate in Spanish, the word ‘queer’ means two things: an umbrella term for sexuality and an anti-establishment group.

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Crowd rallies for missing and murdered Indigenous women

  Dozens of Indigenous families, individuals and allies gathered on Sunday, Oct. 3 at Tiguex Park to march for awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The rally featured stories and testimonies from a broad range of people affected by the staggering number of missing and murdered Indigenous people whose cases remain unsolved. Speakers highlighted the apathetic attitudes of law enforcement and the structural ineptitudes of federal, state and tribal agencies to cooperate and share investigative responsibility. In addition, attendees brought up victim-blaming and shaming as barriers to achieving justice for missing Indigenous people. 

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Dual credit high school students exempted from UNM vaccination requirement

  With the COVID-19 vaccination deadline now behind University of New Mexico students, staff and faculty, an additional exception to the medical and religion exemptions remains: dual-credit high school students. These students will be allowed to continue at UNM and on its campuses regardless of vaccination status, and they will not be subject to the same disciplinary action as full-time UNM students. “(High school) students should follow the vaccination policies of their school districts,” Provost James Holloway wrote in an email to the UNM branch chancellors on Aug. 16. 

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