NMELCs Water Cases.


CASES — WATER


Cases are arranged alphabetically, with the exception of affiliated case groupings. The simplest method to find a particular case is to use our search feature, at the top of the page. Learn more about Water issues.


Aquifer Science LLC Water Rights Application [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
East Mountains of Albuquerque

Issues:

Aquifer Science LLC seeks to pump 1,500 acre-feet of water annually from the Sandia Underground Water Basin in Bernalillo County, NM. The NMELC represents individuals who are concerned about the impacts of the proposed pumping on their water rights, public welfare and conservation of water.



Latest News:

05/27/2013 - Hearing resumes on May 30th in Santa Fe through May 31st. The hearing picks up again on June 25th through June 28th.

03/18/2013 - Hearing scheduled to begin on March 25th at 9 am in Santa Fe. The hearing will be in the Bataan Memorial Building, 407 Galisteo St., Santa Fe, NM 87501. This hearing is open to the public.

02/25/2013 - NMELC files Protestants’ Response to the Water Rights Division’s Motion to Strike and Response to Aquifer Science’s Motion for Leave to File Surreply, and Response to Alternative to Motion to Strike.

02/01/2013 - Filed reply to Aquifer Science response and the Water Rights Division response to Protestants’ Motion for Summary Judgement.

01/07/2013 - NMELC files Protestants’ Motion for Summary Judgement.

07/29/2011 - NMELC files Response to Applicant’s Motion to Amend it’s Application.

06/15/2011 - NMELC files Exhibits that will be used at the trial.

Case Initiation Date:
January 2011

Clients/Partners:
individuals

Attorneys:
Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going

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Augustin Plains Ranch water rights application [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Catron County near Datil

Issues:

The New York-based company seeks to pump 54,000 acre-feet of water annually through thirty-seven 20” wells. The Law Center represents approx. 80 individuals and organizations in this case; our clients are concerned about the impacts of pumping on their water, on wildlife, springs, and on the Rio Grande and Gila Rivers, which are hydrologically connected to the San Augustin Plains—and which is the last undammed river in the Southwest.



Latest News:

01/22/2013 - Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC files Notice of Appeal

01/03/2013 - Order from the 7th Judicial District Court that dismisses the Ranch’s appeal. The Ranch now has 30 days to file another appeal in the Court of Appeals.

11/14/2012 - Memorandum opinion on motion for summary judgement upholding the State Engineer’s order denying application.

09/12/2012 - NMELC files reply in support of upholding the State Engineer’s order.

07/26/2011 - NMELC files memorandum in support of upholding the State Engineer’s order denying application and dismissing this appeal.

04/09/2012 - Augustin Plains Ranch LLC files appeal

03/30/2012 - New Mexico State Engineer denies Augustin Plains Ranch LLC’s water rights application.

12/05/2011 - Hearing scheduled for February 7th, 2012 in Socorro.

05/13/2011 - NMELC files Protestants’ Reply to Augustin Plains Ranch LLC’s Responses regarding Motion to Dismiss.

04/29/2011 - NMELC files Response in Opposition to Augustin Plains Ranch’s Motion for Stay.

02/11/2011 - NMELC files Motion to Dismiss application.

11/09/2010 - Hearing Officer requested a brief to be filed on February 11th. Oral arguments will be heard on May 20th.

10/18/2010 - There will be a scheduling meeting on November 9th in Socorro, NM. The meeting is meant to finalize calendaring of the hearing with the State Engineer.

06/01/2010 - Those protesting the application by Augustin Plains Ranch LLC have until June 28th to pay a $25 fee to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer to be involved in the matter.

Case Initiation Date:
2008

Clients/Partners:
Gila Conservation Coalition, ranchers

Attorneys:
Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going

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BER Beryllium Mine [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Monticello (near Truth or Consequences)

Issues:

Prevent the siting of a beryllium mine that would threaten springs and an acequia. Exploration complete in 2010, now working to obtain proper reclamation of the exploration.



Latest News:

10/17/2012 - Clients are waiting for notice that BER has begun reclamation.

04/26/2010 - NM Mining and Minerals Division MMD granted BE Resources Inc., a permit to drill exploration holes on the Sullivan Ranch. Read Press Release.

Case Initiation Date:
June 2008

Clients/Partners:
Monticello Ditch Association

Attorneys:
Jonathan Block

Case Status:
On-going

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Buckman Recreation Area [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Rio Grande, Santa Fe County

Issues:

Oppose the development of a Buckman corridor recreation area unless there is a clear demonstration that LANL legacy plutonium contamination in that area is no longer a health and safety issue.



Latest News:

December 2011 - The Forest Service deferred action until 2014

Case Initiation Date:
April 2011

Clients/Partners:
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

Attorneys:
Jonathan Block

Case Status:
CLOSED

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Gila River Diversion Project [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Gila River

Issues:

Investigate options open to the State of New Mexico concerning water projects on the Gila River under the Arizona Water Settlements Act.



Latest News:
Case Initiation Date:
July 2009

Clients/Partners:
Gila Conservation Coalition

Attorneys:
Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going

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Grant County Tyrone mine closure plan [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Silver City/ Grant County

Issues:

Ensure future remediation and bonding of Phelps Dodge mine (5th largest open pit mine in U.S.) in Grant County. UPDATE: NMED and Tyrone settled, but the settlement is contingent on several future events, such as promulgation of copper mine discharge permit regulations and granting of variances. NMELC will continue to monitor the situation in behalf of GRIP.



Latest News:

12/22/2010 - NM Environment Department announces settlement with Freeport McMoran on the longstanding appeal associated with closure requirements for the Tyrone copper mine in Grant County, N.M. Get PDF of NMED press release.

03/06/2009 - Freeport McMoran filed an appeal to the decision from the Water Quality Control Commission to uphold the groundwater discharge permit requirements.

01/13/2009 - After four years of litigation, including an excursion to the NM Court of Appeals and a year of “executive session” deliberations by the NM Water Quality Control Commission, the Commission issued its decision on January 13th, 2009 regarding the groundwater discharge permit that the Environment Department (NMED) issued in 2005 to Phelps Dodge Mining Co., now Freeport McMoran.  The decision is significant for the protection of New Mexico’s groundwater.

The permit requires that the company clean up its extensive and deep groundwater pollution, which spans two aquifers.  Two of the permit conditions require the company to regrade and cover all of the exposed tailings, waste rock and ore at the site, encompassing nearly 10,000 acres of land. After the permit was issued, Phelps Dodge sued over those permit conditions. Although it did not dispute that the piles will continue to be sources of groundwater contamination for centuries to come, the company argued that it had the right to pollute the groundwater beneath its property. 

The Commission made several important determinations that rejected the arguments presented by the company and its numerous experts.  Most importantly, the Commission stated unequivocally that land ownership and control of the land surface are not relevant to determining whether groundwater will be used in the future.  Instead, it directed the NM Environment Dept. to only consider objective factors such as aquifer characteristics, present use of water, pre-mining water quality, and reasonably foreseeable use of the groundwater at issue over a time horizon of at least the next 100 years.

Case Initiation Date:
2001

Clients/Partners:
Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP)

Attorneys:
Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going - The NM Water Quality Control Commission directed NMED to determine which parts of the aquifers underlying the mines are “places of withdrawal” where water quality standards must be met. NMED must make this determination and reevaluate the permit conditions in light of its determination within 18 months.

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Humate Mining Regulation Amendment [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Northwest New Mexico

Issues:

Advocate for client who opposes a petition to weaken the New Mexico Mining Act Rules. The change, sought by a mining company, is to classify all humate mines under 60 acres as “minimal impact” mines. Currently, the Mining Act considers mines over ten acres “non-minimal impact” and requires them to comply with comprehensive monitoring and environmental regulations.



Latest News:

02/12/2014 - NM Mining Commission files Final Order and denies Motion to Reconsider.

02/10/2014 - NMELC files Response to Motion to Reconsider.

02/05/2014 - Opposing party asks NM Mining Commission to reconsider its decision.

09/17/2013 - NM Mining Commission decides to consider humate mines 20 acres and under as “minimal impact mines”, doubling the previous acreage of 10 acres.

08/27/2013 - Hearing is scheduled to reconvene on September 17th at 8 am.

08/16/2013 - NMELC files Notice of Intent to Present Technical Testimony for client.

07/01/2013 - Hearing scheduled for August 26 and 27, 2013

Case Initiation Date:
May 2013

Clients/Partners:
Amigos Bravos

Attorneys:
Douglas Meiklejohn

Case Status:
On-going

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Knowles Community Groundwater Case [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Knowles near Hobbs

Issues:

Represent clients in proceeding where dairies are drawing down local water supplies.



Latest News:

01/27/2012 - Case settled.

08/03/2011 - Hearing scheduled for end of January 2012 before the Office of the State Engineer.

Case Initiation Date:
November 2009

Clients/Partners:
individuals

Attorneys:
Jonathan Block

Case Status:
CLOSED - Settlement reached which requires that the dairy operations irrigation water be metered with quarterly reporting of water use.

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Los Alamos National Laboratory Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility Discharge Permit [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Los Alamos

Issues:

Representing client in state proceedings concerning Discharge Permit 1132 for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility.



Latest News:
Case Initiation Date:
June 2004

Clients/Partners:
Amigos Bravos

Attorneys:
Jonathan Block

Case Status:
On-going

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Mora County Oil and Gas Fracking Ban [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Mora County

Issues:

Defend Mora County against legal challenges to the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Law, the first county level ordinance to ban all oil and gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing. The ban was adopted on April 29, 2013.



Latest News:

12/03/2013 - NMELC files Answer Brief for clients.

11/2013 - Suit filed against Mora County Commissioners’ adoption of fracking ban.

Case Initiation Date:
Nov. 2013

Clients/Partners:
Mora County Board of Commissioners

Attorneys:
Eric Jantz

Case Status:
On-going

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Mount Taylor Standby Permit [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Mt. Taylor region, near Grants, NM

Issues:

Rio Grande Resources, has applied to the NM Mining and Minerals Division for a fourth standby permit renewal for the inactive Mt. Taylor Mine.  A standby permit allows the mine operator to let the mine remain inactive without having to do any reclamation (clean up). The permit lasts for 5 years. Our clients are challenging the permit application because we believe RGR must do some reclamation rather than leave the mine as is for another five years.



Latest News:

08/27/2013 - Order filed vacating NM Mining Commission’s order and certifying case to Court of Appeals

05/29/2013 - NMELC files a reply to the Commission’s Response to Appellants’ Statement of Issues.

05/10/2013 - NMELC files Request for Hearing. Read press release.

01/24/2013 - Received public notice for Mining and Mineral Division’s review of Rio Grande Resources’ closeout plan and financial assurance.

01/02/2013 - Filed Reply to Rio Grande Resources Corp. Response to Appellate Issues.

12/27/2012 - Filed Reply to NM Mining Commission’s Response and Reply to NM Mining and Minerals Division’s Response to Appellate Issues.

10/22/2012 - Filed Statement of Appellate Issues.

09/20/2012 - NMELC files Appellants’ Motion to Certify Appeal.

01/31/2012 - The NM Mining and Minerals Division Director, Fernando Martinez, approved a 5 year standby permit for the Mt. Taylor Mine. The standby permit will allow Rio Grande Resources to avoid reclaiming the waste piles at the mine site, which have led to groundwater being contaminated with uranium.  The Law Center’s clients are considering whether to appeal Mr. Martinez’s decision. 

09/01/2011 - NMELC files a post hearing submission comments.

08/17/2011 - Public hearing held at the Cibola County Convention Center, in Grants, NM.

05/30/2011 - Public hearing to be held this summer.

08/05/2009 - Client submitted comments on the proposed ground water discharge permit. Currently waiting on response from the New Mexico Environment Department’s Ground Water Bureau.

06/05/2009 - Mount Taylor was permanently listed in the State Register of Cultural Properties by the Cultural Properties Review Committee. To view the final nomination, a map showing the guardian peaks used to establish the TCP boundaries and other related materials, please visit the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division website.

Case Initiation Date:
July 2009

Clients/Partners:
Amigos Bravos and Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE)

Attorneys:
Eric Jantz

Case Status:
On-going

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New Mexico Dairy Discharge Regulations [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Statewide

Issues:

Represent clients at an New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) hearing to advocate for strong discharge standards for dairies.



Latest News:

09/10/2013 - WQCC agrees to hear dairy industry’s second and consolidated petition to roll back groundwater discharge regulations. WQCC will schedule the hearing in March 2014.

12/07/2012 - NMELC files Coalition’s Motion and Memorandum for Reconsideration and Dismissal of Petition.

11/19/2012 - Direct Testimony of Kathy Martin in Support of the Coalition filed with the WQCC.

11/16/2011 - WQCC adopts the proposed amendments to dairy discharge regulations.

02/14/2011 - The Coalition enters its opposition to the Motion for Stay pending appeal of the dairy rules.

01/13/2011 - The NMELC filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus for its clients in NM Supreme Court over Governor’s halt of printing of dairy discharge rule.

12/23/2010 - The dairy rule was filed with the State Records Center today. The effective date will be January 31, 2011. It is codified as 6.2.6 NMAC and will be published on Jan. 14.

12/16/2010 - The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) passes New Mexico’s first industry-specific regulations for the dairy industry.

11/08/2010 - Coalition files Exceptions to the Hearing Officer’s Report.

08/23/2010 - Coalition files its Reasons for Decision and Conclusion on final rule with the WQCC.

06/08/2010 - Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) resumes its hearing on proposed groundwater regulations for dairies.

01/04/2010 - Currently awaiting response from the hearing officer regarding our clients Motion to Intervene in the opposing parties appeal to the Water Quality Control Commission. This hearing is scheduled for mid April 2010.

Case Initiation Date:
October 2009

Clients/Partners:
Amigos Bravos, Caballo Concerned Citizens, Citizens for Dairy Reform, Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter

Attorneys:
Jonathan Block

Case Status:
On-going

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New Mexico Oil and Gas Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”) Disclosure Regulation [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Statewide

Issues:

NMELC will advocate that environmental and landowner protections be included in oil and gas industry-sponsored regulations for disclosure of fracking fluids.  The proposed regulations require drilling companies to report some of their fracking fluids within 45 days after they inject the chemicals underground to facilitate natural gas extraction.



Latest News:

The Oil Conservation Commission, with a majority of commissioners appointed by Governor Susana Martinez, adopted the industry-sponsored regulations in December 2011.  After hearing testimony from OGAP, they made one change: in addition to posting their non-proprietary chemicals to fracfocus.com, drilling companies will have to file their disclosure reports with the Oil Conservation Division.  This will give residents who do not have internet access the ability to see reports at Division field offices.

These regulations are weaker than disclosure regulations recently adopted in Colorado, Texas and Wyoming.

Case Initiation Date:
November 2011

Clients/Partners:
Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP)

Attorneys:
Douglas Meiklejohn

Case Status:
CLOSED: The Oil Conservation Commission adopted industry proposed regulations with only minor changes.

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New Mexico Oil and Gas Pit Regulation appeal [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Statewide

Issues:

Representing client in litigation brought by oil and gas industry in State Appellate Court; we are working to uphold regulations. The new Rule, for which the Law Center ardently advocated in 2007, (NM Oil and Gas Pit Regulation Change case page) is the most stringent in the nation and governs the management and disposal of toxic drilling by-products at drilling sites.



Latest News:

03/27/2012 - District Judge Raymond Ortiz quashed his Writ of Prohibition issued in February. This allows industry groups to go before the Oil Conservation Commission, where they seek to re-write the oil and gas waste disposal regulation.

03/23/2012 - NMELC files OGAP’s Response to NMOGA’s Petition for Superintending Control in NM Supreme Court.

02/14/2012 - The Writ of Prohibition was issued.

01/25/2012 - Judge Ortiz ordered a Writ of Prohibition granting the NMELC’s request that the Oil Conservation Commission be prohibited from reconsidering the Pit Rule until all the court appeals of the rule have been resolved.

01/10/2012 - Judge Vigil postponed appeals so that the OCC can ‘revisit’ the Pit Rule and consider the changes proposed by industry.

05/02/2011 - The NMELC filed a Supplemental Brief for its client, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, in compliance with the First Judicial Court’s February 23, 2011 order.

02/23/2011 - District Court Judge Barbara J. Vigil decided that because of the Pit Rule’s substantial public importance and statewide impact, she would certify industry’s appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.  A decision on the Pit Rule will now be rendered by the Court of Appeals. 

12/10/2010 - Oral arguments were heard by District Court Judge Barbara J. Vigil who took all parties arguments regarding industry’s challenge under advisement and would issue her decision sometime in February. Judge Vigil decided to postpone hearing arguments on the rollback of the chloride standard until February.

02/18/2009 - Press Release: Governor Bill Richardson Proposes Modifications to New Mexico’s Oil Field Pit Rule

10/20/2008 - The Law Center submitted a brief, on behalf of our client, in the appeal in order to defend the Rule.  We anticipate that the NM District Court will issue a decision as early as this Spring.

Case Initiation Date:
July 2008

Clients/Partners:
Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP)

Attorneys:
Eric Jantz, Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going

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New Mexico Oil and Gas Pit Regulation Change [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Statewide

Issues:

Advocate for language that would allow for the improved regulation of discharges from oil and gas wells.



Latest News:

02/18/09 - Press Release: Governor Bill Richardson Proposes Modifications to New Mexico’s Oil Field Pit Rule

07/2008 - The New Mexico oil and gas industry is suing to overturn it NM District Court (See New Mexico Oil and Gas Pit Regulation appeal)

06/2008 - Some requirements of the Pit Rule:

  • All temporary disposal pits must be permitted by the State, and all pits must have heavy-duty liners.
  • Drillers must use “closed-loop” tanks near water resources, rather than storing wastes in open pits that can leak into nearby wells, rivers or groundwater.
  • A significant amount of contamination must be hauled to licensed disposal sites; waste disposed of on-site must meet groundwater quality standards before being buried.
Case Initiation Date:
2007

Clients/Partners:
Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP)

Attorneys:
Eric Jantz

Case Status:
COMPLETED - Stringent regulations adopted June 2008.

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New Mexico Oil and Gas Pit Rule Roll Back [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Statewide

Issues:

In June 2008, the Law Center successfully advocated for New Mexico to adopt the most stringent Oil Pit Rule in the U.S. (the Rule governs the storage and disposal of toxic oil and gas drilling by-products. See case details: See case details: New Mexico Oil and Gas Pit Regulation Change)  On February 18, 2009, Governor Richardson announced he was directing the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to work with industry to develop amendments that would allegedly save companies the cost of compliance to the recently adopted Pit Rule. These proposed changes, if adopted, would substantially increase the risk of groundwater pollution.

The Law Center represents its client, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, in an effort to defend the current Pit Rule.  We are particularly concerned about the State’s proposed rollback of the chloride standard from 3,000 micrograms/liter (mg/l) to 250 mg/l.  This proposal, which was made with industry input without participation from other stakeholders, would endanger groundwater quality by encouraging disposal of toxic oil field wastes in numerous uncontrolled locations.



Latest News:

03/23/2012 - NMELC files OGAP’s Response to NMOGA’s Petition for Superintending Control in NM Supreme Court.

02/14/2012 - The Writ of Prohibition was issued.

01/25/2012 - Judge Ortiz ordered a Writ of Prohibition granting the NMELC’s request that the Oil Conservation Commission be prohibited from reconsidering the Pit Rule until all the court appeals of the rule have been resolved.

01/10/2012 - Judge Vigil postponed appeals so that the OCC can ‘revisit’ the Pit Rule and consider the changes proposed by industry.

02/23/2011 - Because she had questions on two specific legal issues in the chlorides standard rollback appeal,District Court Judge Barbara J. Vigil ordered additional briefings on these issues from the parties.  Briefs are due April 30th.

12/10/2010 - Oral arguments were to be heard by District Court Judge Barbara J. Vigil, but she decided to postpone hearing arguments on the rollback of the chloride standard until February after she decides on the pit rule appeal from industry.

11/16/2009 - Law Center files OGAP’s Reply to OCC Response

10/30/2009 - Law Center files OGAP’s Motion for Stay.

10/01/2009 - Law Center files OGAP’s Statement of Appellate Issues.

07/30/2009 - Law Center files OGAP’s Notice of Appeal to the First Judicial District Court.

06/19/2009 - State commission approves pit rule change, Drilling Santa Fe Blog.

04/28/2009 - Law Center files OGAP’s Proposed Conclusions of Law and Findings of Fact to the Oil Conservation Commission

03/31/2009 - Press Release: New Mexico’s Land and Water Face Challenge from the Oil and Gas Industry

02/18/2009 - Press Release: Governor Bill Richardson Proposes Modifications to New Mexico’s Oil Field Pit Rule

Case Initiation Date:
February 2009

Clients/Partners:
Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP)

Attorneys:
Eric Jantz, Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going

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Rio Bonito Water Rights Case - Capitan/ Ruidoso Water Transfer [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Rio Bonito Valley (Lincoln County)

Issues:

Prevent Capitan from speculative lease of water to Ruidoso, to detriment of acequia farmers in valley and surface flows of Rio Bonito.



Latest News:

08/03/2009 - Currently in settlement discussions. Lease application hearing has been stayed indefinitely.

06/19/2009 - Lease application hearing by the Villages of Ruidoso and Capitan to lease water rights from Capitan to Ruidoso is scheduled for July 28th in Roswell, NM.

05/14/2009 - Filed Motion for Clarification, Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Entry of Appearance.

Case Initiation Date:
April 2009

Clients/Partners:
Rio Bonito Preserve

Attorneys:
Bruce Frederick

Case Status:
On-going

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Rio Pueblo de Taos Contamination [Click to view entire case file.]
Location:
Taos Pueblo

Issues:

Represent Taos Pueblo in negotiations with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning contamination of Rio Pueblo de Taos by the Town of Taos’ wastewater treatment plant.



Latest News:
Case Initiation Date:
July 2011

Clients/Partners:
Taos Pueblo

Attorneys:
Douglas Meiklejohn

Case Status:
On-going

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