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Apr. 9 First News: Hearing Examiner Rejects PNM's Power Proposal (Listen)

A state hearing examiner has submitted his recommendations after more than a year of wrangling over how to fill the void that will be left by the partial closure of an aging coal-fired power plant that supplies more than two million customers in the Southwest. Two units at the San Juan Generating Station are scheduled to close in 2017 under an agreement with federal and state officials to curb haze-causing pollution in the Four Corners region. Public Service Co. of New Mexico wanted to replace the two units with more coal-fired generation and a mix of natural gas, nuclear and solar power. Hearing examiner Ashley Schannauer said Wednesday that PNM's plan as proposed doesn't provide net benefits to the public and shouldn't be approved by the state Public Regulation Commission.A natural gas and photovoltaic power plant that a Colorado-based company plans to build in New Mexico will be a boon for San Juan County's property taxes. When the Four Corners Generating Station closed three of its coal-burning units in 2013 and BMP sold its coal mine to the Navajo Nation, the county began losing an estimated one-million dollars’ annually in property and gross receipts taxes. The San Juan Generating Station is scheduled to shutter two of its coal-burning units in 2017 to meet federal emission standards. Documents from Western Energy Partners show its planned 750-megawatt power plant would pay the county up to about nine-million dollars a year in property taxes. The company plans to build the power plant in Waterflow. It's scheduled to begin operation in mid-2019.

Santa Fe City Councilors—on a six-to two vote—approved a measure Wednesday banning the sale of bottles of liquor in sizes of eight-ounces or less within city limits. The measure, sponsored by Councilor SigneLindell as an anti-litter proposal, was supported by the vast majority of those who spoke before the Council. However, an attorney who represents several Santa Fe liquor store owners said he will file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.

New Mexico officials say investments are paying off when it comes to early childhood education, but more work needs to be done. Federal statistics released this week show less than 40 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs in New Mexico. While that's in line with the national average, dozens of states have even lower percentages, including neighboring Arizona and Colorado. New Mexico has been working for the past decade to boost pre-K programs, and the budget that was recently approved by lawmakers includes nearly 25 million dollars to expand pre-K across the state. Public Education Department spokeswoman Ellen Hur says New Mexico has tripled its investment in public pre-K since 2011. That has resulted in the number of enrolled four-year-olds increasing by nearly 150 percent.

Governor Susana Martinez has signed bills to expand access to kindergarten through third grade classes and to allow certain teachers to become principals quicker. Currently only those schools with poor grades receive funding for the K-3 Plus program, which provides additional instruction over the summer for struggling students. Martinez says the legislation allows those schools that improve their grades to build on the momentum and continue to improve. The other bill signed by Martinez streamlines the administrator licensure process to allow excellent teachers with a proven track record of success to become administrators after three years, instead of the current six years. The governor signed the bills Wednesday while visiting an Albuquerque elementary school. She faces a Friday deadline for acting on legislation passed during the 60-day session.

Santa Fe Police asked police in Las Vegas to notify relatives of a man who'd been found dead, but the request was overlooked, and the family only learned of his death when they reported him missing. The Las Vegas Optic reports that Santa Fe police made the request to their Las Vegas counterparts on March 31st to provide a death notification for 48-year-old Tony Trujillo Jr. He died of natural causes. His body was found in a car that had sat in a restaurant parking lot for a few days. Las Vegas Police Chief Juan Montano says no notification was made because the request was overlooked at his department's dispatch center. Trujillo's relatives learned of his death when they told New Mexico State Police on Saturday that he was missing.

Santa Fe Weather: Sunny today with the high near 60. Tonight: Partly cloudy with the overnight low down to 36. Tomorrow: Mostly sunny and a high of 62.