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April 15 First News: Santa Fe Conserves Even More Water Than Before

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Santa Fe is using even less water than it did in previous years, and new stats show the city is still the most conservative of many others across the country.  City officials told the public utilities committee that residents used 90 gallons per day in 2015, down from 95 gallons a day the year before.  By comparison, the Journal says, Albuquerque consumed 127 gallons per day last year.  Santa Fe water bosses say the reduction could be linked to the tiered rate system here where people who use less are charged less per gallon, and higher water users pay more.  The city also uses rebates to encourage low-water use appliances and toilets, plus rain barrels and water catchment systems.

Democrats in the race for district attorney in northern New Mexico are decrying a high number of out-of-state donations to one of the candidates whose father has been in politics here for decades.  Marco Serna has reported taking in $34,321 in the first campaign finance reports as of Monday, according to the Albuquerque Journal.   That’s almost three times the amount raised by the incumbent, Jennifer Padget, who was named to the position several months ago by Governor Susana Martinez.  The other Democrat, Maria Sanchez-Gagne raised $16,514, while the Republican in the DA race, Yvonne Chicoine, raised $3,436.  Serna, the top money raiser, is the son of Eric Serna, former state insurance superintendent who retired during a controversy 10 years ago and is now the attorney for a large, Florida-based insurance company.  Several of that company’s executives have donated a combined several thousand dollars to Serna’s campaign.  He says they simply share his vision for the DA’s office, according to the Journal.

New Mexico energy conservation officials have been hit with a flood of applications for the state's solar tax credit and are on track to meet the $3 million cap way before the end of the year.  The cap has been met each of the last four years, but officials say it'll likely happen by the end of July this year.  This marks the last year for the 10-percent tax credit. A measure that called for extending the incentive through 2024 stalled during the last legislative session.  State budget concerns were among the reasons. Some critics also argued the industry no longer needed the help, but supporters vowed to push again next year.  Energy Conservation and Management Division Director Louise Martinez says the program has stimulated the industry in New Mexico.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attended a fundraising gala on Long Island in New York as about 100 people protested outside.The event Thursday was held just blocks from where an Ecuadorean immigrant was stabbed to death in 2008 by a gang of teenagers who targeted Latinos. Protesters have said the event is a slur on the memory of the slain immigrant.  Trump told his supports he has a "great relationship" with Mexico and Hispanic people. He made no mention of the protesters who had gathered outside during his 20-minute speech.  Outside the event, police had established separate barricaded areas for Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators. Police said there were no arrests.  Trump said he anticipates Suffolk County will be "my single biggest margin" in the New York's Republican primary on April 19.

Meanwhile NM Governor Susana Martinez was honored at a Republican National Committee event in New York City.  Governor Martinez spoke immediately before Donald Trump, and the speech delivery did not demand the attention of the room, although she did receive polite applause as she spoke and guests dined. The Governor stuck to Republican talking points without the naming support for any of the Republican presidential candidates. 

Debra Haaland, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico said, “The policy priorities New Mexico has been suffering through the past five years under Governor Martinez are exactly in line with the reckless and racist priorities of Trump and other Republican candidates.”

Managers of the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico have earned positive marks and nearly all of the $13 million in performance pay that was available for the last fiscal year.The U.S. Department of Energy released documents Thursday that detailed the $11.7 million in fees earned by Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that manages the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.  The plant has been shuttered since February 2014, when a radiation release contaminated part of the underground facility. As a result, the Energy Department's multibillion-dollar cleanup campaign has been derailed at defense sites across the nation.  Watchdogs called the fees outrageous, saying the contractor should have been docked for missing deadlines related to the installation of an interim ventilation system needed for reopening the repository.

New Mexico oil field regulators are providing evidence that a Texas-based driller spilled oily salt water repeatedly at waste-water injections sites without properly reporting it, and ignored initial warnings to stop.  The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division on Thursday provided testimony, photographs and a video at public hearing to back up allegations that Siana Operating of Midland, Texas, failed to report spills of contaminated water. The spill took place at a cluster of wells outside Eunice in the southeastern corner of New Mexico.  A newly hired attorney for Siana asked for more time to respond and was given two weeks until another hearing.  A violation finding from the adjudicatory panel would give enforcement officials authority to ensure compliance or declare wells abandoned, plug them and access security bonds.

The New York Times best-selling author and MSNBC web series host Janet Mock is scheduled to visit New Mexico State University to speak on gender identity.  The transgender activist is slated to appear on campus April 19 as part of the university's Pride Season.  Zooey Sophia Pook, coordinator of LGBT+ Programs at NMSU, will moderate the discussion. Mock will speak about her book, her experiences and the issues of identity and inclusion.  Mock is the author of the 2014 book "Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More." She is also the host of MSNBC's So POPular! weekly web series about culture. 

Anyone  missing their pet tortoise? That's what the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society wants to know.  Animal control officers with the Santa Fe Animal Services say they picked up a stray tortoise around 6 p.m. Wednesday in the downtown area.  The shelter's director of adoptions, Dylan Moore, has a background in working with exotic creatures.  He says the tortoise is likely an African spurred tortoise, a popular breed that does well in Northern New Mexico. Moore says the tortoise is about 2 feet long, 1 ½ feet wide and likely several years old. They have a lifespan of between 50 and 150 years.  Moore says tortoises are notorious for pushing through a fence or digging under a fence.  The wayward tortoise likely wandered off from its owner.

President Barack Obama is supporting an effort to give consumers more choice when it comes to the cable boxes that control which television channels they watch.  Most TV subscribers lease boxes from their cable service provider. The Federal Communications Commission is pursuing new regulations giving consumers more options to buy elsewhere. Obama will formally back that effort Friday.  One of Obama's economic advisers, Jason Furman, says the administration sparingly weighs in on FCC rulemaking. When the president gets involved, Furman says the issue is of "real great importance in his mind to consumers, to competition and to the economy more broadly."  The White House says the average household pays $231 annually to rent cable boxes. While the cost of making boxes has gone down, consumers are paying more.

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