The County Planning Commission and county staff had recommended approval, although opponents of the project appealed the planning commission’s decision. That appeal was denied on the same 3-2 vote.
Jaimie Park, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who argued on behalf of SouthWest Organizing Project and other Santolina opponents, said the developer had failed to provide critical information to determine whether the development would truly result in no net expense to the county, which is one of the conditions. Strozier countered that the no net expense requirement had been addressed by both county staff and an outside firm hired by the county. Albuquerque Journal
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The NMELC is an advocate for all that makes New Mexico a wonderful place to live: healthy communities, a well-functioning environment, social and environmental justice…Our organization, the Augustin Plains Challenge, is determined to make sure that decision-makers know that a lot matters besides lining corporate investors’ pockets. This project jeopardizes the viability of a thriving ranching community. NMELC stands on the front line with us, helping to safeguard our future. NMPolitics.net
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“Administrator Pruitt is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency’s core mission,” an agency spokesman said. Pruitt has made it clear he wants to delegate more responsibilities to state and local governments for enforcement and cleanup.
But Eric Jantz, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center who represents the Red Water Pond Road community, said it’s “pure fantasy” for the EPA to shift greater responsibility to states and tribes while simultaneously slashing funding. RevealNews.org
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Now in its third iteration, the application is pending before the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, which administers the state’s water resources. In July, the state agency canceled a pre-hearing meeting. But last week, it released the application’s scheduling order, which includes information about the project and the process, as well as upcoming public meetings…The New Mexico Environmental Law Center represents a group opposed to the plan that includes 85 people and three landowner associations. NM Political Report
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In the end commission newcomer, Democrat Steven Michael Quezada sided with the county’s two Republican commissioners in favor of letting the development proceed without a water agreement in place.
New Mexico Environmental Law Center attorney Jamie Park argued against letting the project go forward without a water agreement. “We were not surprised,” Park said. “We expected the board to just go ahead and do what the developers requested of it. It’s still not lawful.” KUNM
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Despite impassioned pleas from dozens of residents, Bernalillo County commissioners are giving Santolina developers more time to provide a water plan for the 21-square-mile development southwest of Interstate 40 and 118th Street…
Jaimie Park, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who argued on behalf of SouthWest Organizing Project and the other Santolina opponents, told commissioners that if they agreed to the amendments they would essentially be undermining their own ability to assess whether the water plan they come up with complies with the requirements and they would be eliminating the public’s right to provide public comment and testimony because the water issues would be handled at an administrative level. Albuquerque Journal
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The New Mexico State Engineer’s Office has denied the request twice before on the grounds that there was no buyer to put the water to beneficial use, but the ranch is back for a third try, this time before a new state engineer.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is representing local ranchers and the Gila Conservation Coalition, which oppose the plan. Tribal governments, federal agencies, acequia associations and local governments in Socorro and Catron counties have also formally opposed the project, according to NM Political Report. Las Cruces Sun-News
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Like Hand, Douglas Meiklejohn, executive director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, worries what approval of the application could mean not just for local residents, but other rural New Mexicans.
“The main thing to understand is that if this can happen to an area like the San Agustin Basin, then it can happen elsewhere in the state,” Meiklejohn said. “In terms of the possible precedent, it’s a case that’s important for all rural areas of the state.” NM Political Report
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“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s analysis relating to the master plan,” said Douglas Meiklejohn, the executive director and an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. But he added that her ruling on the zone change decision is a “big victory for fairness and due process.” Albuquerque Journal
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Attorney Douglas Meiklejohn, who represented Santolina opponents in the case, said he disagreed with Franchini’s decision regarding the master plan, but was happy that she struck down the zoning change.
“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s analysis as to the master plan, but we believe that the determination that our clients were denied fairness in the proceedings regarding the zoning is a major victory for fairness in these kinds of proceedings and for members of the public who want to participate in these kinds of proceedings,” Meiklejohn said. ABQ Free Press
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Aquifer Science drilled two wells, one nearly 4,000 feet deep, but did not hit either the quantity or quality of water needed for the development. The Master Plan estimates a need of 1,500 acre-feet a year.
That application was protested by close to 300 people; that opposition coalesced into Deep Well Protest, which hired the N.M. Environmental Law Center. Meanwhile, Bernalillo County protested the application, in part because the county had been denied an application of 30 acre-feet when it put in baseball fields near Vista Grande Community Center, on property very near the master-planned project. That was in 2013. The Independent
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Bernalillo County Commissioners will be looking at approving the next step in getting the controversial Santolina development started on Albuquerque’s Westside…The biggest concern by opponents from the beginning has been water. An appeal by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has been filed an appeal on behalf of opposing organizations. KRQE.com
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“Mr. Chambers had signed the petition in the name of Magdalena Schools and the problem is only the board can enter into a lawsuit for the school, not the superintendent. And this is a lawsuit,” Jaramillo said. “The concern by the school board at the time on Monday was is this going to cost us something…so we felt like it was OK to withdraw and instructed (Superintendent) Dr. (Vannetta) Perry to go ahead and write the letter to withdraw the [protest] on the petition.”
However, in a telephone interview, Meiklejohn told El Defensor Chieftain there was, in fact, no lawsuit and that the normal application process was on schedule. El Defensor Chieftain
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Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can authorize states to take over certain regulatory duties. Under that program, states must be able to assess penalties against companies that pollute water. But in New Mexico, the state’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) hasn’t been able to do that for years. New Mexico Political Report
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Environmentally hostile administrations will be making decisions about New Mexico’s communities and resources this year. Coming to the White House is a president who likely will set back federal environmental protections by years, if not decades…Yet these problems will likely mobilize even more New Mexicans to protect the air, water and lands that are so important to us. Together with the state’s advocacy organizations and public-interest attorneys, we can defend the state we love. But we’ll need to work together to make it happen. Green Fire Times