Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Sunshine is free, unless Exxon buys the sun"

Today the focus on energy centers around the price of oil, but the price for electricity is also increasing as worldwide demand surges. Since 1978 the Federal Government has been trying to increase the use of renewable energy sources, but has been slow to act. Only 3% comes from non-hydropower renewables.

Presently wind power is the fastest growing renewable source. Other technologies have lagged behind. But, researchers expect Solar Power will quickly become the largest renewable source within 5 to 10 years. The price for solar power per kilowatt hour is expected to be 8 to 9 cents (about the same prices as natural gas.)

Scientists often tout the advantages of solar compared to wind including:

· Power is less intermittent that wind and more predictable.

· Excess power is easier to store and does not require battery development.

Correspondent Mark Bralley attended a United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources field hearing on July 2, 2008 at the International Programs Building, Sandia Science & Technology Park, in Albuquerque.

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, chaired the hearing and was joined by ranking member Pete Domenici and Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders.

Sen. Bingaman told Bralley, in this AUDIO INTERVIEW, that he believes there is a great future for solar power in the Southwest, and agrees with WIPP Scientist James Conca that resistance to nuclear power is lower than it has been, but Bingaman says building a nuclear plant is an expensive proposition.

Bingaman also told Bralley we have to determine how to contain green house gases emitted from coal-fired plants. Bingaman says researchers are trying to separate Carbon Dioxide before it is emitted into the atmosphere, but the carbon capture and storage technologies are unproven.

Responding to increasing gas prices the Energy Chairman tells Bralley the country must figure out a way to increase gas production and decrease market demands.

Bralley also spoke briefly with Senator Bernard Sanders after the hearing. In this AUDIO INTERVIEW the independent politician says he’s learned from leading experts that, “there is enormous potential for solar energy in general and concentrated solar in particular.”

Sanders say’s solar power is a big deal, “I think we’re just at the cusp of exploding a technology which can help us reverse global warming, create millions of good paying jobs with other sustainable energies, and also break our dependence on fossil fuel and foreign oil.”

Earlier Sanders told the audience, of about 150 people, that “sunshine is free, unless Exxon buys the sun.”

Senator Jeff Bingaman believes government should require utility companies to provide a measureable percentage of their power from renewables.

Sen. Pete Domenici says republicans want to work with democrats and develop a bi-partisan solutions to America’s increasing electrical needs.

Complete AUDIO from the hearing is available. here. Note: The audio is intermittent until the hearing starts, about two minutes into the feed.

For more information on The NM Independent published two reports on the hearings here and here.

Audio and Photo Credit: MG Bralley

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Developing News: Unlicensed Security Guards Threaten Public Safety.

In the past two months three private security guard company owners, including a former APD officer, an alleged pimp, and a convicted criminal, have either been arrested or indicted in connection with operating their illegal security companies.

Robert Hamic

A licensed private investigator, and former Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy, Robert Hamic, tells me in this AUDIO INTERVIEW he’s aware of at least two dozen companies operating illegally in the Duke City. Hamic publishes the NM Security Blog, and suspects there are additional felons carrying weapons, wearing uniforms and carrying security badges.

Hamic says, “convicted felons posing as armed security guards threaten public safety” in the Duke City. He’s worried because New Mexico is a border state. He believes the public responds to security guards as authority figures, and he's been frustrated with the lack of rigorous enforcement by state regulators.

Kelly O'Donnell

I checked with the NM Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department’s Superintendent Kelly O’Donnell to see if it’s a chronic problem. She confirms there are at least eight or nine on-going security company investigations. O’Donnell told me Tuesday in this AUDIO INTERVIEW, the firms can be fined up to $1000 dollars, but they only have two compliance officers assigned to monitor firms statewide. She says they run background checks on all guard applicants, but unlicensed companies simply don’t submit their guard’s names for review.

O’Donnell says they’ll start an aggressive outreach program to businesses and hopes to educate them on the critical need to confirm security companies license status. She says firms who contract security services must insist their providers be licensed by her department. If you have your provider’s security license number you may check it here.

The Superintendent also says it’s of upmost importance that armed security guards not appear to look like a law enforcement official. She tells us local police chiefs and sheriffs always have to approve private operator’s uniforms, badges and vehicles before they are issued a private patrol operator’s license.


In April, former Albuquerque Police Officer Filberto Baca, the founder of the Armed Response Team, and operator of several unlicensed security firms, was indicted on two fraud charges. Authorities charged him after discovering he may have forged a letter from RLD which assured clients he held the proper state licenses.

In May, Bobbie McMullin the former owner of the Ice House, a nude strip club, was busted for allegedly running a prostitution ring from his storefront security company called Integrated Technical Services.

Last week, the U.S Marshall and the state’s Fugitive Apprehension Team busted a con posing as an Armed Security Guard. Brad Simmerman has been on probation since 2005, and operated American Security Unlimited. Region II Manager of Special Programs for the NM Probation and Parole Division (PPD) Gary Carson tells me that Simmerman is back in jail and being held without bond.

Simmerman told his probation officer he was only on the board of a private security company, but failed to mention he was on armed patrol. He says they don’t want probationers working as security guards and they knew Simmerman was on patrol it would have sent red flags up.

As soon as the P.P.D. team was notified that Simmerman was carrying a firearm authorities developed a plan to re-arrest him. In this AUDIO INTERVIEW Carson says after entering Simmeran’s residence, agents found ammunition, deadly martial arts weapons, and vials of anabolic steroids. Agents believe the steroids were manufactured in Mexico. The drugs have been turned over to the D.E.A., but it is unclear who Simmerman was dealing the drugs for, but they suspect it may have been for a white supremacist group. The task force also found a Whizzanator in Simmerman’s home.Carson tells us probationers use this tool to cheat urine analysis tests. Carson says Simmerman was arrested without incident.

In 2006, the State Legislature enacted new rules for training security guards. O’Donnell told me they will begin rolling out those new procedures later this summer. The new rules are posted here.

Hamic says he’ll continue to monitor the industry on his blog and Jeremy Jojola plans a video report on Eyewitness News 4 next week.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Word Is: A Royal-Style Salute for a Man of Integrity!

Nearly 700 people honored retiring Senator Pete Domenici this weekend at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The sold-out "Here's to Pete" salute and fundraiser was hosted by New Mexico First, a statewide non-partisan organization, and sponsored by community groups and local businesses.

ABC Political Analyst Sam Donaldson was the master of ceremonies. In this INTERVIEW, he praised the Senator's legacy of bi-partisanship. Donaldson told me he believes Domenici will spend the remainder of his term working on the energy crisis, and will best be remembered as a fiscal hawk.

The event featured music, songs, comedy, flamenco dancing and even junior cheerleaders. Domenici baseball cards were included in the media kit, and video tributes played on the big screen in the Roy Disney Theater.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a Sandia High graduate, led the tributes by former staffers. In this SPEECH Napolitano told the crowed she learned a little math from Sen. Domenici after she graduated college in 1979. She says he taught her how to round up to the nearest 100 million.

Napolitano, recently listed as a Top 5 Governor by Time magazine certainly had a better weekend than her former Matador classmate, David Addington. He's the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Read about his congressional testimony regarding the administrations treatment of prisoners at Gitmo here.

After her speech other interns and staffers appeared on stage and sang "God Bless Domenici," to the tune of God Bless America.

Domenici's daughter Clare and Sister Marianella Domenici, the principal at St. Mary's Catholic School, said in this INTERVIEW, that it was an emotional day for them. Clare said she's looking forward to spending some downtime, and going to Isotopes baseball games, with "my pop" after his retirement. And Sister Marianella said her brother looks better. She's pleased with his medical care and said it looks like everyone's prayers are working.

Domenici, sitting on a second level balcony, complete with red, white and blue banners and a U.S. Senate Seal, spoke to the crowd, from his heart, and without notes in this SPEECH.

He says he's enjoyed serving the big towns, little towns and the country. He said 36 years is a long time to serve, but it seemed like just yesterday that he first ran for the Albuquerque City Commission in 1966.

The state's junior Senator Jeff Bingaman attended the event. He told Eyewitness News 4, in this television interview, "We of course don't agree on everything, but there are a lot of things we have agreed on, and I feel good about some of the things we've accomplished."

Governor Richardson appeared via video. Richardson wondered aloud who's wife would make them shave their beard first.

Noticeably absent from the event were all three congressional representatives. Sam Donaldson later delivered him letters from the Representatives. However, both Congressional District - 1 candidates, Martin Heinrich and Darren White attended the event.

The Albuquerque Journal 's David Roybal wrote in Sunday's paper that Domenici's exit from politics will leave the state's Republican Party weakened, but former Congressman Manual Lujan disagreed. Learn why here.

Overall it was a testament to Domenici's service that so many people, from both parties showed up. Domenici said it best, "Nobody hates me"...and that is rare in politics today.

Photo Credit: MG Bralley