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.
SANTA FE, N.M. - Today, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed a request for a public hearing regarding a proposed permit revision to put the Mt. Taylor uranium mine on active status. The mine, near Grants, NM, has been inactive (on “standby” status) without cleanup for 23 years. The mine’s owner, Rio Grande Resources, received a fourth renewal for the standby permit in January 2012, but on April 12, 2013 it notified the public it was seeking a revision to change the mine’s status to “active”. The NMELC filed the hearing request on behalf of its clients, Amigos Bravos and the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE).
Go to case page.
SANTA FE, N.M. - The New Mexico Court of Appeals struck down an effort by the Martinez Administration to repeal regulations favorable to the environment and reinstated the state’s energy efficiency building codes.
The energy codes, adopted before Governor Martinez came into office, were repealed by the State Construction Industries Commission in the summer of 2011. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) appealed the Commission’s move on seven grounds, including that the Commission failed to state the reasons for its decision as is required of all administrative agencies. The Court of Appeals agreed, and reversed the Commission’s decision. (Get PDF of Court of Appeals ruling)
SANTA FE, N.M. - Today began the hearing that will address the water rights application by the company, Aquifer Science LLC. The company has applied for the right to pump 1,500 acre-feet of water annually from the Sandia Underground Water Basin. The company seeks to acquire the water to develop Campbell Ranch, a 4000 home residential community and golf course in the East Mountains area east of Albuquerque. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), representing individuals who live in the East Mountain area, challenges the application. The case is before the New Mexico State Engineer’s office.
The hearing is scheduled to run through April 5th, in the Bataan Memorial Building, 407 Galisteo St., Santa Fe, NM 87501, second floor. This hearing is open to the public
Visit case page to learn more and get case documents.
SANTA FE, N.M. - Today, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission concluded a public hearing on proposed amendments to the oil and gas waste pit regulation (the Pit Rule) without allowing conservation groups to testify. Expert technical witnesses offered by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) were not permitted to comment on the potential effects that burying toxic waste products from oil and gas drilling in the ground would have on the state’s groundwater and public health.
“The Commission is supposed to hear relevant testimony from experts and the public in order to make an educated decision on the rules and regulations it chooses to adopt,“ says Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney representing Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP). “The Commission chose to afford industry every leniency, and in doing so, pushed the public’s welfare aside.“
On Friday, December 14th, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss with the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission to dismiss the New Mexico Environment Department’s proposed Copper Rule petition because it would authorize mining companies to pollute groundwater and therefore violates the Water Quality Act. The Motion was filed for NMELC’s clients: the Gila Resources Information Project, Turner Ranch Properties, Inc., and Amigos Bravos.
“The Environment Department’s primary mission is to prevent water pollution, but the proposed copper mine rule would do just the opposite. It would expressly authorize mining companies to pollute water above human health standards,“ says Bruce Frederick, NMELC Staff Attorney. “I’ve never seen anything like this.“
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), in observance of the United Nation’s Human Rights Day 2012, is continuing its efforts to persuade the State of New Mexico and federal regulators to protect the ground water that is the source of drinking water for present and future generations of residents of Crownpoint and Church Rock.
“We must remember that the human right to clean water could be violated right here in New Mexico,“ says Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney. “For over 17 years, Navajo communities have been fighting the state, corporations and the federal government in order to protect their drinking water from uranium mining. Because domestic regulators have thus far refused to acknowledge this potential human rights violation, our client, Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining has had to go to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to ask for justice.“
SANTA FE, N.M. - The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) will kick off the celebration of its 25th Anniversary with the public screening of a short original film created by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Debra Anderson (director and producer of the documentary Split Estate). The screening will be held at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe on December 11th and will include an award presentation followed by a showing of Robert Redford’s classic screen adaptation of The Milagro Beanfield War.
“For twenty-five years, the Law Center has worked with communities in New Mexico to protect air, land and water. Because of the technical nature of our work, it’s a difficult story to tell.” says Shelbie Knox, NMELC Development Officer. “We are lucky to have worked with a filmmaker as skilled as Debra, because she really captures some of the compelling stories from the communities where we work, including our work with Santa Fe County residents during the Galisteo Basin oil and gas fight.”
Go to NMELC Events page.
SANTA FE, N.M.— Today, a State District Court Judge upheld a decision to keep a New York based corporation from appropriating 54,000 acre-feet of public groundwater per year from the San Augustin basin in Catron County, NM. Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC had filed an appeal in April seeking to overturn the New Mexico State Engineer’s decision to deny the application.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the organization that led the fight to stop the appropriation and which represents more than 80 residents from the area, had filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the application.
“Our clients are very pleased with the decision,” says Bruce Frederick of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “The judge’s decision confirmed what 150 years of water law has already established — you can’t take the public’s water unless you have a concrete beneficial use for the water. This corporation is trying to hoard the water until its value increased enough to justify selling it. The decision today is an important step towards protecting New Mexico from rampant water speculation.“
The application, first filed in 2007, was originally protested by close to 1000 individuals, ranches, businesses and government agencies. The protestants had a variety of concerns, including that the application would impair existing water rights, deplete flows in the Rio Grande and Gila River stream systems, dry up springs, and harm fragile ecologies.
The State Engineer denied Augustin Plains Ranch’s application for several reasons, including that the application omitted basic critical details required by law—how, when, where, and in what quantities the corporation intended to use water.
“The corporation may petition a higher court for relief,” says Frederick, “and if it does, we will continue to work to protect New Mexico’s most precious resource from those who wish to monopolize it.”
You may download a copy of the decision here.
Throws Out Protections for New Mexico Groundwater
SANTA FE, N.M. - On October 12th, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) submitted comments with the New Mexico Environment Department on draft changes to the state’s copper mine regulations. The comments were filed on behalf of clients, Amigos Bravos, Turner Ranch Properties, L.P., and the Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP). The comments challenge the Environment Department’s wholesale acceptance of regulations proposed by Freeport-McMoRan, Inc., the company that operates large open pit copper mines near Silver City, NM. The Environment Department’s upper management adopted Freeport’s proposal in order to accommodate Freeport’s need to routinely pollute groundwater with acid rock drainage, metals and other contaminants in the course of its mining operations.
“At Freeport’s request, the Environment Department’s upper management overruled the recommendations of its technical staff and would now allow Freeport, and other operators, to construct and operate leach, waste rock and tailings stockpiles without a liner,” says Bruce Frederick, attorney with NMELC. “When exposed to precipitation, these stockpiles produce a highly acidic solution that can leach into groundwater and pollute it above water quality standards unless they have an impervious liner.“
SANTA FE, N.M. - A new report released today, reveals how New Mexico’s economy is at risk for serious damage as the climate change crisis grows graver. New Mexico, the report explains, is particularly vulnerable to water shortages and increased forest fires due to the impacts from climate change.
The report, “New Mexico’s Rising Economic Risks from Climate Change,” is from the nonpartisan public policy organization Dēmos. It lays out how New Mexicans’ health, economy, and environment are already suffering from the effects of climate change and how prolonged inaction will guarantee dire consequences in the coming decades. The report can be found HERE.
SANTA FE, N.M. - On July 2nd, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (Law Center) filed a statement in the Court of Appeals on behalf of its client, New Energy Economy. New Energy Economy is appealing the decision of the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB), whose members were all appointed by Governor Martinez, to repeal New Mexico’s landmark carbon pollution regulations.
The filed statement references newly-discovered documents revealing that Elizabeth Ryan, an attorney and member of the EIB, works for the firm, Beatty & Wozniak, which represents the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), Devon Energy, and other oil and gas interests. Ms. Ryan worked for Beatty & Wozniak as she and the rest of EIB were deciding to repeal the regulations.
Commission Set to Hear Petition to Amend Pit Rule
SANTA FE, NM - On Tuesday, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed a Motion to Recuse on behalf of its client, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) in New Mexico’s new oil and gas “Pit Rule” hearing. The motion asks for one member of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Commission to withdraw from the decision-making process, and for another to disclose her previous dealings with the oil and gas industry. The motion is based on public documents indicating that some Commission members may have already made up their minds to remove most of the substantive environmental protections found in New Mexico’s Pit Rule.
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) and Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) are urging the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revoke an ill-advised permit they gave to uranium mining company, Hydro Resources, Inc. 23 years ago. After ENDAUM and NMELC brought deficiencies in the permit application to EPA’s attention, the EPA took the unprecedented step of revisiting its decision to grant the permit.
“The permit is an ‘aquifer exemption,’ which allows Hydro Resources to conduct uranium mining in a groundwater aquifer under the community of Church Rock, NM,” says Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney and lead counsel on the case. “The type of uranium mining it is proposing would contaminate potable water with radiation and heavy metals, making it unfit for consumption forever. The EPA has both the legal authority and moral obligation to revoke the aquifer exemption.”
SANTA FE, N.M.— The water rights application filed by a New York based corporation, seeking to “appropriate” 54,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year from the San Augustin basin in Catron County was thrown out last Friday by the New Mexico State Engineer. (See OSE order)
Bruce Frederick of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed a motion to dismiss the application on behalf of about 80 parties in the case. Frederick says he and his clients were very pleased with the decision. “The State Engineer’s decision confirmed what most objective water lawyers already knew — you can’t take the public’s water,” says Frederick, “unless you have a concrete beneficial use in mind. In this case, the applicant just wanted to hoard the water until its value increased enough to justify selling the water or the entire project on the open market. This is commonly how ore deposits like gold, copper and silver come to market, but under our Constitution, water belongs to the public and cannot be hoarded or exploited like a mineral resource.”
Learn more about the case.
SANTA FE, N.M.— Once again, the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) voted today to choose politics before public health when it repealed the carbon cap law (Rule 100). In their one-sided deliberations the board members, citing industry evidence exclusively, concluded that the science of climate change is unsettled and that Rule 100 would be too burdensome on the New Mexico economy.
“The evidence and the law do not support EIB’s decision,” says Bruce Frederick, New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) Staff Attorney, “but its decision is no surprise. The EIB, PNM, other utility, and oil and gas interests had previously met in private and decided to institute a new proceeding before EIB to repeal the Rule rather than let an impartial court decide the issues.”
Frederick stated that appeals are likely because the procedure EIB followed was unlawful and unfair.