This is the archive of the latest press releases from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Feel free to redistribute. We have an RSS feed for keeping up to date on NMELC's work. Sign up by clicking the orange RSS icon on the right side of the navigation bar, above.
“As communities throughout the state are confronted by the critical impacts of long-term drought, it is irresponsible to allow mining companies to pollute groundwater that is needed by everyone.”
Allyson Siwik, GRIP Executive Director.
SANTA FE, N.M. — In a case that will set precedent for how the State of New Mexico protects water at industrial sites, the state Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the “Copper Rule” case for September 28, 2016.
The Copper Rule is a regulation adopted by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to regulate groundwater contamination by the copper mining industry. It is the first regulation since the state’s adoption of its Water Quality Act in 1967 that allows an entire industry to intentionally pollute groundwater. The Copper Rule was largely written by mining giant Freeport McMoRan, and adopted in October 2013.
The state’s high court has been asked to set aside the Rule and require the WQCC to adopt a regulation that protects groundwater quality from copper mine contamination.
“...the people who are going to be affected are watching, and asking, ‘when will one of these institutions protect us?’”
Roberto Roibal, Southwest Organizing Project
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Today, parties were notified that state District Court Judge Nancy Franchini ruled against Santolina developer Western Albuquerque Land Holdings (WALH) in its effort to shut down an appeal by three public-interest groups. The judge’s decision allows the public-interest groups and individuals to pursue their appeal of the Level A Master Plan and zoning change for the proposed mega-development.
The SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), Pajarito Village Association and New Mexico Health Equity Working Group appealed the decision to the Second District Court of New Mexico last year. The groups are represented by the non-profit New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC).
“...the Oil Conservation Commission forgot who they worked for. It isn’t the oil and gas industry.” Bruce Baizel, Executive Director, Earthworks’ OGAP
SANTA FE, NM — Yesterday, groups working to protect New Mexico’s water resources and wildlife asked the state Supreme Court to review the Martinez Administration’s “Pit Rule”. The Rule governs the storage and disposal of wastes at oil and gas drilling pits in New Mexico.
The petition for a writ of certiorari was filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) on behalf of Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. The public interest groups have been working on the issue since before the Pit Rule was first adopted in 2008, after a lengthy public process. The petition asks the state’s highest court to review a decision handed down by the state Court of Appeals in February upholding the amended Pit Rule. See Pit Rule Fact Sheet.
Today, the NMELC and other groups petitioned the U.S. EPA to stop allowing industries to dump their hazardous waste in our country’s groundwater.
One reason why this petition is important to New Mexico:
NMELC’s client, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), has been fighting for years to get an aquifer exemption overturned. The EPA granted the exemption for uranium mining in an aquifer near Church Rock shortly before the aquifer was deemed by the Navajo Nation as “a promising source of drinking water in the future due to its high quality”. See NRDC press release.
“We live everyday with environmental legacy from past uranium mining. The termination of this permit means we won’t face new mining anytime soon.”
Larry J. King, ENDAUM
SANTA FE, NM — A state groundwater discharge permit for a controversial uranium mine proposed near Church Rock, NM has been officially terminated. Mining cannot begin at the site without a valid permit.
DP-558, originally issued in 1989, allowed Hydro Resources, Inc. (now Uranium Resources, Inc.) to discharge contaminated water into the aquifer as part of its mining operation. The permit expired in 1996. Although the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) received a renewal application from Hydro Resources in 1996, the agency did not act on the application until the summer of 2015 – 19 years after the company submitted its renewal application.
“When Respondents demand that the Court pay deference to the Commission, they are actually demanding that the Court pay deference to Freeport McMoRan.”
With your support, we filed our Reply Brief in the Copper Rule challenge before the state Supreme Court on March 7th. It’s one of our last steps before the state’s high court hands down a ruling in a case that could decide how groundwater is protected – or sacrificed – at industrial sites in New Mexico for years to come.
Mt. Taylor Mine Hearing Set for Friday, December 4th
On December 4, the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division will hold a public hearing to seek input about whether Rio Grande Resources’ (RGR) Mt. Taylor Uranium Mine can move from standby to active status. The Mt. Taylor Mine near the village of San Mateo has been inactive and polluting the surrounding environment for the last 25 years.
On Thursday, December 3, RGR attorneys sent a pre-hearing statement to various parties to the hearing including NM Mining and Minerals Division, NM Attorney General’s Office, the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and Amigos Bravos, attempting to limit public comment on RGR’s request to restart the Mt Taylor Mine.
“At this point, a lot of promises have been made by the Air Force and the New Mexico Environment Department, yet they continue to delay a serious cleanup process and keep failing to adhere to their own cleanup deadlines.” Javier Benavidez, SWOP Executive Director Initiate
SANTA FE, NM — The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) has filed a notice of intent to sue with the US Air Force, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Secretary of Defense and the New Mexico Attorney General over the failure to implement productive measures toward cleaning up the massive Kirtland Jet Fuel Spill.
The letter was filed on behalf of clients Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), New Mexico Senator Cisco McSorley, New Mexico Senator Mimi Stewart and four individual residents of Albuquerque, NM. The letter announces plaintiffs’ intent to sue the US Air Force over the glacial pace toward cleanup of the spill. The letter is a required by law to inform parties that they will be sued after 90 days.
“The Rule violates the Water Quality Act because it imposes no limit on…the pollution discharged by copper mines…The Act mandates that New Mexico’s ground water be protected. We hope the Court will agree.” NMELC Executive Director, Douglas Meiklejohn
SANTA FE, N.M.— Today, advocates for water quality filed their Brief in Chief with the New Mexico Supreme Court. The brief outlines why the Court should set aside the state’s Copper Mine Rule, which regulates the discharge of copper mining pollution into groundwater. The state Court of Appeals upheld the regulations in May, even though the Rule neither prevents water pollution nor protects New Mexico’s limited ground water supplies as required by the New Mexico Water Quality Act. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case in June. Today’s brief was filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) on behalf of Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP), Amigos Bravos and Turner Ranch Properties, L.P. (Visit case page)
“I look for the places in between whether I have a month, a day, or a minute…, I find wilderness.” Craig Childs
SANTA FE, N.M.— Join the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) when it hosts the Wild & Scenic Film Festival with special guest speaker, Southwest author and naturalist Craig Childs. Childs will give a live presentation to NMELC members and introduce his short film The Story of Place at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Pavilion on the evening of Saturday, September 12, 2015.
In his members-only presentation, Ghost Water, Childs will take us on a journey through time and water, unfolding the land around us to look inside and find the one element we all need.
“Water is the most elusive and crucial element we have,” says Childs. “Water flows through everything. You might not be able to see it, but it’s written all around you in every cottonwood and arroyo. It’s a ghost, and you have to honor your ghosts.”
The Wild & Scenic Film Festival returns to Santa Fe!
SANTA FE, N.M.— Join the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) when it hosts the Wild & Scenic Film Festival Tour in its 2nd Annual showing at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Pavilion on the evening of Saturday, September 12, 2015.
One of the nation’s premiere environmental and adventure film festivals, Wild & Scenic films combine stellar film making, beautiful cinematography and first-rate storytelling to inform, inspire and ignite. Explore solutions and possibilities to restore the earth and human communities while creating a positive future for the next generation.
This year our Special Guest is author, Craig Childs, who will give a presentation to NMELC members prior to the films.
“Our clients are not trying to stop copper mining; they are trying to ensure that copper mining does not pollute ground water.”
Douglas Meiklejohn, NMELC Executive Director
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Supreme Court has granted the petition filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) requesting review of the Copper Rule, which regulates discharges from copper mines in New Mexico. The Supreme Court order, dated July 13th, states that it will review all the issues raised in the petition.
“This hearing will finally give our clients the opportunity to shine a bright light on the environmental racism happening here.”
Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Last week, the Albuquerque Air Quality Control Board rejected a motion from the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department (EHD) for summary judgment on an air permit retroactively granted to a gasoline distribution depot. The Honstein Oil Co. fuel depot had been operating in the San Jose neighborhood for decades without an air permit. EHD urged the Board to decide the community members’ appeal of the air permit in a “paper trial,” rather than allowing the community to present evidence about the health impacts of air pollution from Honstein’s operation and other air pollution sources. (visit case page)
“It sends a message to the San Jose community that their lives don’t matter as much as those in non-minority and more affluent neighborhoods.”
Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— On Tuesday, June 30th, oral arguments will be heard before the Albuquerque Air Quality Control Board over an air permit granted to a decades old gasoline distribution depot operating in the San Jose neighborhood of Albuquerque. The Environmental Health Division (EHD) granted Honstein Oil Co.’s permit application in June 2014, without considering the cumulative impacts of air pollution sources on public health and property. The permit allows the plant to emit 2.26 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. Get Fact Sheet
“This is a great step forward because protection of our state’s groundwater resources has never been more critical.” Dan Lorimier, Sierra Club
SANTA FE, N.M.— Today, the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) unanimously voted to adopt the stipulated Dairy Rule agreement without changes. The adopted Dairy Rule – a set of groundwater discharge regulations for dairy operations - is the direct result of community groups calling out the State to do a better job of regulating the state’s dairies, and the dairy operators to be better caretakers of the environment.