DOWN -- Lots of people were talking about the fact that our representatives in Congress are once again trying to do their jobs after an exhausting hiatus that included self-destructive brinksmanship. A majority of the members managed to agree on a budget deal that will ease some of the damage caused by across-the-board budget cuts, required under sequestration, and that eliminates the possibility of government shutdowns for the near future. However, one part of that budget deal that is not getting much fanfare will cost Western states an estimated $415 million in oil and gas royalties. The budget makes permanent an effective 51-49 split on those royalties that favors the federal government. It used to be a 50-50. According to The Associated Press, the largest payments went to New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and California and New Mexico would have collected an additional $10 million next year. These cuts will create hardships for states such as New Mexico that rely (too) heavily on a shrinking pool of federal dollars.
UP -- It's not final according to the defendants, but a U.S. bankruptcy judge this week ruled that Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is liable for billions of dollars that would be used to clean up messes caused by uranium mining and milling. Some of those mines were operated on the Navajo Nation by Kerr-McGee Corp. The mining started in 1944 to provide a source for atomic power. The legacy is more than 500 abandoned uranium mines and an untold number of tailing piles. Kerr McGee built a 77-acre uranium disposal cell in Shiprock that operated between 1954 and 1963. We understand that the material was required for a program intended to ensure the nation's security. Nonetheless, the company made significant profits and should be responsible for cleaning up its own mess. Anything less is corporate welfare because taxpayers will have to pay for the cleanup. We hope the decision is upheld.
DOWN -- The FBI says a woman wearing a Santa hat robbed a Farmington bank of an undisclosed amount of money. The FBI declined to say whether the suspect was armed. It's bad enough that someone with bad intent hijacked that ubiquitous symbol of seasonal giving. Making matters worse, the suspect was arrested 3 ½ hours later at SunRay Park and Casino. It appears she couldn't wait to parlay her "winnings." This is just bad behavior all the way around. Times are hard for many San Juan County residents, but this is another of those incidents that makes us wonder what goes on in some peoples' minds.
UP -- Aztec Ruins National Monument received an $8,000 grant this fall that will help it market its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Other World Heritage sites include the Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty. The ruins and Chaco Culture National Historical Park received the designation in 1987. Many of these sites experience brief surges in popularity among tourists that fades as time goes on. During a meeting held earlier this week, a group of experts talked about how to brand the site to help people remember it. One of the suggestions -- which we like -- was, "Come to the center of the universe," based on a Puebloan belief. And the experts say these areas draw the "cultural traveler," which tends to be better educated and have deeper pockets. We hope more people share our cultural bounty.