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Lawsuit challenges coal mine approvals in 4 states

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - An environmental group has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn government approvals for seven coal mines in four states.
    
Jeremy Nichols with WildEarth Guardians in Denver said Thursday that the Department of Interior's approvals were illegal because no public notice was given.
    
At issue are mining plans for the San Juan mine in New Mexico; Colowyo and Trapper mines in Colorado; Black Thunder, Cordero Rojo and School Creek mines in Wyoming and Spring Creek mine in Montana.
    
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado asks a federal judge to void the government's approvals, which were awarded between 2007 and 2012. The suit contends coal mining pollutes the air, water and land.
    
The Department of Interior did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New Aztec bridge design to increase project cost

AZTEC, N.M. (AP) - Engineers are reevaluating the design of a pedestrian bridge that will link trail systems within the city of Aztec to protect unexcavated archaeological sites and alleviate flooding concerns.

The Daily Times reports  that the new design is expected to boost the cost of the bridge by about $600,000.

The original cost was $1 million. The bridge would be part of the city's ongoing efforts to enhance pedestrian and bicycle access from the downtown area to parks, trails and cultural resources such as the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

Aztec Ruins Superintendent had raised concerns about the bridge over potential damage to archaeological material.

He had asked city officials and engineers to guarantee the material would not be at risk. The final design will have to be approved by various government agencies, including the Federal Highway Administration.

Shiprock ranks 3rd in Native American poverty rate

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - A new report ranks Shiprock third in the nation in the percentage of Native Americans living below the poverty line.

The Census Bureau's report analyzed the 20 cities most populated by American Indians and Alaska Natives and compared the poverty rates from 2007 to 2011.

The Farmington Daily Times reports  that nine of the 20 cities were in New Mexico and Arizona. Under federal guidelines, an individual earning less than $11,170 a year or a family of four with an annual income of less than $23,050 is considered to be living in poverty.

Shiprock's poverty rate was 39.6 percent. Gallup was ranked fourth on the list with 31.8 percent, Zuni Pueblo was fifth at 31.8 percent, Farmington was seventh at 29.6 percent and Albuquerque was 12th at 27.4 percent.

Woman sentenced to 8 years for slaying in SW Colo.

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - A 20-year-old woman charged in the killing of a man in southwestern Colorado has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Durango Herald reports Shanice Smith, of Farmington, N.M., was sentenced Friday.

She pleaded guilty to accessory to murder and robbery stemming from the April 3, 2012, shooting death of 39-year-old Joey Benavidez at his mother's house near Ignacio.

The shooting is believed to have resulted from a drug deal gone wrong.

Court records say Smith accompanied her cousin, Tommy Lee Mitchell, and friend Elijah Anglin to confront Benavidez, but she never entered the home. Smith remained in a car outside the house with a rifle by her side - on call if she needed to come inside.

Mitchell and Anglin are awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

BLM, vets wrangling over Bloomfield campground

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - A veterans group and a federal agency are wrangling over a campground that's located on federal land but that has been managed by the veterans group for nearly 40 decades.

The Daily Times reports that a Veterans of Foreign Wars post recently asked the Bureau of Land Management for help in combating vandalism at the campground near Bloomfield. 

That prompted BLM officials to review the situation and to demand that the post relinquish control until there's a new agreement regarding the site.

That's frustrating VFW members whose group have improved the campground. It's used for recreation, picnics and as a place for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to relax. BLM official Scott Hall says the agency is researching options that could allow the VFW to continue using the site.

Farmington city councilor refuses to use email

In the year 2013, it's hard to find someone who doesn't have an email, but KOB Eyewitness News 4 has found a Farmington city councilor who refuses to get an email address, even though the city says she needs it.

Mary Fischer has been a city councilor in Farmington on and off for about 30 years and likes to interact with her constituents, in person or over the phone.

"They always feel free to come up to me to tell me their complaints or often sometimes compliments," said Fischer.

But communicating with her colleagues is sometimes rocky.

Fischer and mayor Tommy Roberts got into a heated argument at last week's city council meeting. Fischer was upset about other city councilors not informing her about important issues.

So the mayor decided that a city issued email and computer should be installed in Fischer's office.

Body found at bottom of cliff in NM is identified

AZTEC, N.M. (AP) - A body found at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff in New Mexico's San Juan County has been identified as a Kirtland man missing since last month.
    
Authorities say 21-year-old Gilroy Luther was last seen the early morning hours of Jan. 22 when he was leaving for work.
    
He was later reported missing by his adoptive aunt.
    
On Monday afternoon, San Juan County Sheriff's deputies were called about a body being discovered in a ditch at the bottom of a cliff in the Aztec area.
    
Authorities say there's no sign of foul play and injuries to Luther's body are consistent with that of a fall from a cliff.
    
However, the actual cause of death is pending until an autopsy has been completed.