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.
The Wild & Scenic Film Festival comes 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 only northern New Mexico stop, at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market Pavilion on Saturday, November 8, 2014.
“We are excited to host this entertaining event about community activism and environmental protection,” says Elizabeth Lee, NMELC Director of Philanthropy. “It will showcase a range of perspectives about how to be heard and how to make a difference. It will also celebrate the natural world and our relationship to it. The festival encapsulates the spirit of the Law Center’s work: to stand up for individuals and communities whose wellbeing is threatened by environmental degradation.”
Santa Fe, NM — Today, a retired couple from western New Mexico asked the state Supreme Court to order the State Engineer to dismiss a massive speculative water appropriation application from Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC (“APR”).
In their petition for a writ of mandamus, filed by attorney Bruce Frederick of the non-profit New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Ray and Carol Pittman state that a second application filed by APR this summer is “identical in all material respects” to the application that APR filed in 2007. The 2007 application was denied by State Engineer Scott Verhines and a District Court after five years of litigation. Just like the 2007 application, the 2014 application seeks to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet of water per year (afy), but fails to indicate exactly how or where the water will be used, as required by the state Constitution. “By keeping the intended use vague,” said Frederick, “the Ranch hopes to speculate in future water markets and ultimately sell to whoever the highest bidders may be in seven counties.” See Petition for Writ
Albuquerque, NM – Yesterday, the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County under Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint, submitted by the non-profit New Mexico Environmental Law Center, asserts that local decision-makers “have demonstrated a record of marginalizing minority communities so that they are exposed to an unequal burden of air pollution and the concomitant adverse health effects.”
As documented in the complaint, adverse health impacts linked to pollutants in the San Jose and Greater Gardner neighborhoods include asthma and shorter life spans. Mountain View, which has an elevated concentration of “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs), has “higher than expected numbers of lung, bladder, brain and thyroid cancers, as well as higher than expected numbers of leukemia compared with the rest of Bernalillo County.”
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center has submitted two reports to the United Nations’ committee overseeing the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The reports, submitted on behalf of NMELC clients Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) and SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), describe instances in New Mexico where Federal and local governments disregarded or failed to uphold the human right to equal treatment under the law.
“There are communities here that have been waiting decades to be heard by the government agencies that are supposed to serve them,” says Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney. “Communities of color in New Mexico represent the majority of people who live in this state, yet these communities continue to be the least served when it comes to basic protection from toxic pollution.”
SANTA FE, N.M. — Today the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed its Reply Brief in an appeal against the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission’s weakening of the Pit Rule in 2013. The Pit Rule is a set of rules that were originally designed to regulate oil and gas well waste pits in order to protect public health and the environment. The NMELC, representing Earthwork’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project, asserts that the changes should be overturned on the grounds that the Commission’s action was based on no new data, and done solely to accommodate the oil and gas industry’s economic goals.
NMED and industry agree to separate meetings excluding community and environmental groups
SANTA FE, N.M.— In a move that may violate New Mexico law, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) plans to hold closed door meetings with dairy industry groups who have petitioned the Martinez Administration to withdraw pollution safeguards for the protection of drinking water.
Instead of following legal requirements, NMED has announced plans to hold exclusive and separate Advisory Committee meetings with the dairy industry and the Citizen Coalition - a coalition of environmental and community groups that support the current dairy rules.
SANTA FE, N.M.—The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) is disappointed by and concerned about the May 7th ruling by two Judges of the Court of Appeals denying a stay of the Copper Mine Rule. The ruling means that copper mine companies may continue to pollute groundwater while the validity of the rule is being challenged - which can take a year or more.
Douglas Meiklejohn, Executive Director and attorney with the NMELC, stated that the Court’s ruling is just preliminary. “Contrary to the assertions of state officials, the ruling does not determine the merits of the appeal. We requested the Court to delay implementing the rule until it determined whether the rule violated state law.”
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed its Brief in Chief today in an appeal against the 2013 amendments to the Pit Rule - a rule that regulates oil and gas operation waste pits. The NMELC argues that the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) re-wrote the previous, more environmentally protective Pit Rule solely to increase oil and gas companies’ profits. The NMELC requests the State Court of Appeals to throw out the 2013 Pit Rule on behalf of client, Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP).
“The OCC heard identical testimony and evidence in the Pit Rule hearings of 2008 and 2013,” says Eric Jantz, NMELC Staff Attorney. “In 2008, the OCC adopted a Pit Rule that protected public health and groundwater resources for all of New Mexico. In 2013, the OCC removed nearly all of these protections for no other discernible reason than to maximize oil and gas corporate profits. This Commission was created to regulate the oil and gas industry and protect the environment - not protect industry profits.”
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed its Brief in Chief yesterday in an appeal against the adoption of the Copper Rule - a rule that regulates discharges from copper mines. The brief argues that the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) violated the state’s Water Quality Act when it adopted the Copper Rule, and asks the Court of Appeals to set the rule aside.
“This rule, on its face, allows toxic pollution into groundwater,” says Bruce Frederick, NMELC Staff Attorney. “Given that sixty-five percent of our state is currently in severe drought or worse – including Grant County where Freeport McMoRan’s massive copper mines are located – our decision-makers should be developing rules that protect groundwater. The law is clear in New Mexico: water is a public resource, and it must be protected.”
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Mining Commission voted today to deny an effort by the humate mining industry to further weaken protections in the New Mexico Mining Act regulations. A September 17th decision by the Mining Commission allowed humate mines to disturb twice as many acres without doing the environmental review required for other mines this size under the Mining Act. Not satisfied with the ability to disturb twice as much land as other mines, the humate mining industry a motion to reconsider the September decision. The Mining Commission denied the motion.
SANTA FE, N.M.— On December 27th, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed its Brief in Chief in an appeal arguing that the New Mexico Construction Industry Commission violated several laws when it made a second decision to roll back the Energy Efficient Building Codes adopted in 2010. The NMELC represents the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Environment New Mexico, Sundancer Creations Custom Builder, LLC, and several individuals in their effort to mandate energy efficiency in new buildings in New Mexico.
The Commission’s first decision that removed the Energy Efficiency Codes was reversed by the State Court of Appeals in April of this year in an appeal filed by the NMELC and its clients. The Commission made its most recent decision against energy efficiency in July of this year. The codes affected are the New Mexico Electrical Code, the New Mexico Energy Conservation Code, the New Mexico Mechanical Code, and the New Mexico Plumbing Code.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is pleased to announce the winner of the Karl Souder Award for Water Protection is William C. Olson. The award was presented at an invitation only event in Santa Fe on December 8, 2013.
Mr. Olson, former chief of the ground water quality bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department, retired in 2011 after holding that position for seven years. Prior, he worked for the Oil Conservation Commission’s environmental bureau for nearly 13 years. After his retirement, he continued to work to protect groundwater resources working for the Department as a consultant and, most recently, testifying as a private individual against the adoption of the current Copper Rule.
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) announces the “winner” of the Toxic Turkey Award for 2013 is Ryan Flynn, Secretary-Designate of the New Mexico Environment Department. The NMELC’s Toxic Turkey Award is given to a person or group that has shown extraordinary disregard for New Mexico’s environment.
The newly appointed Secretary-Designate has made every effort to offer up New Mexico’s public health and natural resources to irresponsible polluting industries including copper mining and industrial dairies.
SANTA FE, N.M.— Today an appeal of the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission’s (WQCC) adoption of copper mining groundwater regulations was filed by Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP) and Turner Ranch Properties, L.P., represented by New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), and Amigos Bravos represented by High Desert Energy + Environment Law Partners. The groups are challenging the adopted copper mining rules because they expressly allow water pollution rather than prevent it. Proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department and the global copper mining company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, the rules mark the first time in 36 years that the WQCC has set aside its mandate to protect the quality of the state’s scarce groundwater resources.
“At the request of Freeport McMoRan, the Commission adopted a regulation that allows extensive and permanent groundwater pollution at all copper mines,” says Bruce Frederick, NMELC Staff Attorney. “We are appealing the rule because we think it’s unconstitutional and diametrically opposed to the Commission’s express statutory mandate, which is to prevent water pollution.”
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Mining Commission voted on September 17th to change mining regulations to allow larger humate mines without comprehensive environmental review. The rule change allows humate mines to disturb twice as many acres at a time without doing the environmental review that is required under the mining act for other mines this size. (Humate is a coal-like substance that is used primarily as a soil additive.) Amigos Bravos, represented by New Mexico Environmental Law Center, opposed the rule change and presented testimony in opposition to the change.
“By giving the humate mining industry special treatment under the law, this rule change sets a dangerous precedent,” said Rachel Conn, Amigos Bravos’ Project Director. “We are concerned that other mining industries in the state will want the same ability to disturb more land without appropriate environmental oversight.”