Groups criticize Humans Services Department decision to turn down SNAP resources, implement work requirement

Community members will make comments at a press conference immediately following Friday’s public hearing

Albuquerque, NM – The governor has proposed to turn down federal resources and implement work requirements for SNAP participants. Without child care, job training and job readiness support, and almost non-existent public transportation in rural parts of the state, activists and New Mexicans dealing with some of the fewest job prospects and highest food insecurity in the nation are telling the governor and Human Services Department secretary Sidonie Squier that these changes will only hurt New Mexico families.

“Cutting SNAP resources is not a job creation program,” says Rodrigo Rodriguez, an organizer with Southwest Organizing Project. “With 1 in 3 children in New Mexico experiencing hunger, and 1 in 5 adults unsure of where their next meal is coming from, this proposal will only exacerbate hunger and reinforce poor nutrition and food insecurity for our state’s most vulnerable communities.”

The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) plan to limit food benefits to adults on food stamps, including parents of children over six years old, would make New Mexico one of six states to reject these available federal benefits that currently bring millions of dollars into New Mexico’s grocers and surrounding communities, while alleviating hunger. New Mexico is one of the most food insecure states in the nation, where 20.8% of New Mexicans live below the poverty line, including 29.2% of children. 86% of this population participates in the SNAP program.

“This is another example of the Human Services Department Secretary being out of touch with the people she is meant to serve,” says Kim Posich, executive director of the Center on Law and Poverty. “Work requirements for families receiving food assistance do not result in more people getting jobs. They do not result in more families doing community service when they cannot afford childcare. Work requirements simply result in more people going hungry.”

Critics of the HSD proposal point to the current job market in New Mexico, where unemployment is on the rise, and communities are feeling the economic impact of a double-dip recession.

“It’s difficult for young men of color to find work, and then to lose the possibility for SNAP makes it even more difficult for us to make it,” explains George Igwe of the Men of Color Initiative.

New Mexicans have seen how SNAP resources continue to pay dividends for many years after the food stamps have been used, as well as the devastating effects of potential cuts.

“Hungry children cannot learn, making it harder for them to do well in school, which can have far-reaching impact on their potential for academic and work achievement,” says Patty Keane, MS, RD, a Nutrition Scientist. “Hungry children have trouble getting along with others, which can lead to behavioral problems in school and at home. They are at higher risk for depression and anxiety. Even when a parent protects their child from hunger by ensuring the child is fed first, the anxiety and psychological stress of food insecurity and insufficiency in the home still affects the child.”

New Mexico HSD will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes August 29th at 9am at the Harold Runnels Building Auditorium, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM. The location has been changed to accommodate more attendees. Individuals wishing to testify or to request a copy of the proposed regulation should contact the Income Support Division by calling 505-827-7250. Written or recorded comments can be submitted electronically to: DebraD.Hendricks@state.nm.us

Community members, activists and allies will be available for comment at a press conference immediately following the public hearing outside the Harold Runnels Building in Santa Fe.


DOE Inspector General releases scathing report about LANL’s incompetent handling of waste, leading to WIPP shutdown


By Greg Mello, Los Alamos Study Group

Albuquerque, NM – Today the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General (IG) released a scathing “Management Alert” from their investigation into the role of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in causing the contamination and shutdown of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

The Los Alamos Study Group filed a detailed formal request with the DOE IG to investigate these issues on July 15, 2014.  Today’s IG report is partly responsive to that request.

After noting that a LANL-created drum burst at WIPP, causing significant impacts not just at WIPP but at transuranic (TRU) waste generating sites around the country, the DOE IG found that:

* Despite specific direction to the contrary, LANL made procedural changes that did not conform to DOE technical guidance.

* LANL and its subcontractors mixed “potentially incompatible materials” to chemically-hazardous TRU waste that contained oxidizers (nitrate salts), namely organic absorbents (organic kitty litter and before that, organic polymer) as well as certain acid neutralizers.

* LANL’s waste processing and safety control procedures were inadequate, leading to the creation of mixtures which were “inherently hazardous.”

* LANL “did not consider readily available information on chemical reactions,” including an EPA case study on mixing oxidizers with organic or combustible materials which noted that “common references” warn against such mixtures.

* LANL somehow added the “organic” to the description of acceptable absorbent, violating recent (2012) detailed DOE/LANL/WIPP guidance for this particular waste stream.  LANL didn’t run its procedures past subject matter experts or the WIPP team that was set up to resolve issues with difficult waste streams such as this one.  Neither did LANL consult with its own safety organizations.  Instead, LANL’s review was focused on compliance with environmental permits alone.

* Yet, [oddly,] LANL had halted processing of this waste stream in 2012 “because of the possible dangers of mixing organic materials with nitrates,” [suggesting that at least some LANL managers as well as other people in the waste program understood these dangers].

* LANL also approved the use of an acid neutralizer that included an ingredient that was “highly reactive” with oxidizers and therefore “potentially incompatible with nitrate salts stored in the drums.”  This neutralizer was added to “the majority of drums” in this waste stream.

* According to LANL’s permit under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), waste processing should have stopped if the waste involved was a hazardous waste for multiple reasons (was “assigned multiple EPA hazardous waste codes”).

* LANL has subsequently “tentatively” reclassified hundreds of drums as potentially ignitable and/or corrosive, “which may pose previously unrecognized safety issues.”[1]

The IG also made recommendations for immediate steps DOE and LANL could take to improve TRU waste at LANL.  These recommendations were accepted in detail by Frank Klotz, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on behalf of DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz, to whom the Alert was sent.

The DOE’s Accident Investigation Board is expected to complete its own review of the WIPP incident before the end of the year.

As Study Group director, I was the first state hazardous waste official to inspect LANL, in 1984.  Here is my official statement on this report: “We are pleased that this report correctly identifies the central role of LANL in causing the contamination and shutdown of WIPP, which DOE now estimates to last about two years and cost up to one-half billion dollars or more.  That will be the minimum.  Expensive operational limitations are likely at WIPP henceforth.

“The violations of established well-procedures and lack of common chemical knowledge are shocking.  The report, as well as other information available to the Study Group, describe an insular, stove-piped, highly-bureaucratized corporate culture that did not access or use its own technical expertise or that of others.

“The IG report hints at, but does not discuss, the knowledge LANL had about the dangers of mixing organic materials with nitrate salt waste drums.   LANL halted processing these drums over just this issue, but inexplicably resumed in August 2012, mixing finely-divided organic material with a witch’s brew of unknown nitrate salts and acids, by the pallet-load.

“The IG report is silent about what LANL knew when.  Did LANL know about the dangers of mixing and shipping what the DOE IG correctly calls “inherently hazardous” combinations of chemicals, which “common references” warn against?  Was LANL rushing to meet its June 30 deadline for the sake of profits and incentive pay?

“The IG report is also silent about accountability for this huge fiasco.  Will the for-profit private company that manages LANL, LANS, be forced to pay for any of the hundreds of millions of dollars that these failures have cost the taxpayers?  Will LANS be awarded another year of managing LANL as if nothing happened, with no actual penalty except a few million dollars less profit?  Indeed will LANS be able to keep its contract at all, in the face of this incompetence and the resulting tremendous costs, the full scope of which is as yet unknown?

“LANL has admitted violating its operating permit.  Under RCRA, the person who must be held responsible for this is the managing director of the site, Charlie McMillan.  Is LANS so powerful that Dr. McMillan is now above responsibility for “petty” matters like waste management?

“NNSA’s response to this report is very far from adequate.  It basically consists of adding more bureaucratic complexity and rules, instead of actually using the management tools available to NNSA.  The LANS contract needs to be renegotiated, at a minimum.  If NNSA’s response to this incident continues the “forward-looking” approach of the DOE IG, and ignores accountability, it will only be a short time before LANS produces another fiasco, something this contractor is now doing on a regular basis.”

Suggestions for NNSA laboratory management reform can be found here: LASG comments to the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories (CRENEL), Sep 26, 2014.

See also “New Mexico TRU: “Study Group Calls for Pause in New Plutonium Waste at Los Alamos, press release, Jun 2, 2014.



[1] On August 29, New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Secretary Ryan Flynn directed LANL to resume daily monitoring of the potentially explosive gases which have been building up in two containers at LANL stored at Area G near White Rock, NM.  LANL had inexplicably halted daily monitoring despite knowing that hydrogen levels in one of the containers had reached 70% of the lower explosive limit (LEL).  See “Gas buildup in waste drum prompts state order to Los Alamos,” George Lobsenz, Energy Daily, 9/26/14.


Community: City to Televise Candidate Forums

The city of Las Cruces, in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Greater Las Cruces, will televise two candidate forums prior to the November 4, general election.

The first forum will be Tuesday, Oct. 7, with candidates running for the offices of Doña Ana County Sheriff, county commission, magistrate judge, probate judge and county assessor.

The second forum will be Tuesday, Oct. 14, with candidates for the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Both forums will be from 6 – 8 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 700 N. Main St.

The forums will air live on CLC-TV, cable channel 20. They will also be streamed live and available on demand at CLCTV.COM. They will also be rebroadcast multiple times on CLC-TV up to Election Day. On Sunday, Nov. 2, the forums will air all day on CLC-TV beginning at 8 a.m.



Weather Forecast for SWEC’s Gala: Perfect


The rains are expected to go away and our usual wonderful fall weather will arrive just in time for the Southwest Environmental Center’s annual fundraiser A Wild Night…for Wildlife this Saturday, September 27, 6-10 pm. There’s still time to get your tickets!

Join us as we close off Main Street in downtown Las Cruces for an evening under the stars, featuring delicious food from Andele, Savoy de Mesilla, The Mix Pacific Rim, De La Vegas, Hotel Encanto, and others, excellent High Desert brews and St. Clair wines, and a silent auction featuring more than 100 unique items. (Click here to see a sampling of what’s in the auction.)

Enjoy the eclectic music of Albuquerque’s Felix y Los Gatos, and Las Cruces’ own Mad Moe Zell, and Jamie O’Hara. Meet the staff and board of the Southwest Environmental Center. Mingle with other people who care about the natural world.  In short, enjoy a really fun evening while supporting a great cause!

Tickets are $50 in advance ($60 at door) of which $25 is tax-deductible. Tickets can be purchased at the Southwest Environmental Center (275 N. Main, Las Cruces) M-F, 9 am to 6 pm, or online here. They will also be available at the door. All proceeds will benefit SWEC’s efforts to protect the wildlife and wild places of the Southwestern borderlands–treasures like Otero Mesa.

Don’t have anyone to go with? No worries. Join others and make friends at the designated Community Table.

We want to thank our event sponsors and urge you to support them as well: Vescovo Toyota of Las Cruces, El Paso Electric, Ardovino’s Desert Crossing, Classic New Mexico Homes, Donahue Land Surveys, Enchanted Occasions Event Rentals, Everett and Boetticher PC, Grady Oxford & Steinborn TCN Commercial Real Estate, Jornada Veterinary Clinic, Las Cruces Bulletin, Lisa Willman CPA, Los Puentes Farms, Melissa Reeves PC-Attorney at Law, Positive Energy Solar, Seribellum Press, Sleep Lab of Las Cruces, Southwest Music and Entertainment News, and Sun-Tech Services.

For more info, call 575.522-5552 or contact info@wildmesquite.org. Tell your friends! See you on September 27!


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  • The Light of New Mexico
  • Green Fire Times
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  • Heath Haussamen: NM Politics
  • Thomas Wark
  • Carolyn Baker: “Speaking truth to power”
  • James Howard Kunstler: The Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle
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  • Desert Journal: NM online newspaper
  • Bruce Gagnon: Organizing Notes
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  • Steve Klinger’s music and blogs: Songs for change; music blog
  • Progressive Democratic activist site
  • Gordon Solberg
  • Brenda Norrell: Censored and under-reported news
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