OUR MISSION

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center has been defending environmental justice since 1987. It is our mission to work with New Mexico’s communities to protect their air, land and water in the fight for environmental justice.

At the Law Center,  we are working hard with under-resourced communities in New Mexico to ensure that they have the same clean air, land and water that every New Mexican is entitled to. We are on the legal front line fighting to not only keep environmental regulations, but to make them even stronger. Support our work to protect New Mexico.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is committed to dismantling the racist structures that are at the heart of environmental injustice and all disparate treatment of communities of color. If we do not respect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the land we sow, and the community in which we live, we cannot realize the fundamental human rights to which we are all entitled. We stand with those seeking justice and will continue to utilize our platform to support our state and its people.

 

In Solidarity with Protestors…

The events of the last weeks – which have their origins in the very beginning of our nation’s history – have laid bare the inequities that are the mainstay of America.  The state sponsored violence is vicious and jarring and has resulted in widespread popular resistance.  The New Mexico Environmental Law Center unequivocally condemns police violence and stands in solidarity with the communities impacted by police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The massive protest against police violence and systemic racism also provides a glimpse into the more mundane, but equally caustic, day to day violence that existing racist structures perpetuate.  The daily machinery of oppression includes the wide array of environmental and public health laws that mediate how each of us relates to the larger global ecosystem. 

While our nation’s environmental laws are held up as a bastion of progressivism, they do not serve everyone equally.  The environmental movement is rooted in the privilege of affluence and whiteness that has historically excluded communities of color. 

We in the environmental movement are often the beneficiaries of the privileges that at the same time oppress our neighbors and allies.  It would be easy for the Law Center to retweet a statement from a frontline organization or post something on our website expressing outrage at the latest incidents of state violence and then go about our lives.  It’s much more difficult and important to engage in meaningful and thoughtful evaluation of our place in the framework that perpetuates violence and oppression.  

We believe, however, that only with a hard look at ourselves and the system we work in can we begin to really understand and resist the systemic racist structures that dictate who has clean water, air and land and who must pay the price for industrial “progress” that ostensibly benefits us all, but in reality only serves a few. At the Law Center, we acknowledge that we have benefited from the status quo and have begun the difficult and essential process necessary to become a more equitable and inclusive organization.  We are having conversations both internally and with community partners to identify ways in which we may have perpetuated oppressive structures and find ways to address our shortcomings to become better partners with communities. 

We also call on our white friends and colleagues to reject the easy tropes that “environmental laws protect everyone” or “governments are well meaning” and to truly examine our system of environmental law and policy and ask whether it also contributes to the day to day violence that communities of color live with.  We call on our friends and colleagues to consider that environmentalism is more than protecting a scenic area for recreation or aesthetic beauty, but is also a fundamental struggle to ensure human and civil rights to the basic conditions necessary for survival and human dignity.  We call on our white friends and colleagues to listen deeply to communities of color; to step up when called to, to step back when asked and to stand in solidarity no matter what. 

OUR WORK

AIR

The Law Center represents residents in their battle to fend off polluting industry and preserve their right to clean air.

LAND

The Law Center serves communities fighting to keep dangerous pollutants away from their land and clean up areas already contaminated.

WATER

In the face of the added urgent threat from climate change, protecting both access to water and quality of water is a critical priority for the Law Center.

Law Center Client

Red Water Pond Community

 

As World War Two was ending, the growing nuclear arms race put the US in need of uranium. It turned to Navajo Nation, where the uranium mining industry thrived for four decades — but left disease, pollution and the biggest radioactive spill in US history.

That spill in Church Rock, New Mexico upended the lives of nearby residents, who had to grapple with toxic water, livestock and a lifetime of illnesses. Now, they are still waiting for it to be cleaned up.

IMPORTANT ARTICLES

ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM

Many people understand the environment as a force of nature that cannot favor or disfavor different populations. However, similar to all things on Earth, the environment is subject to human influences. Unfortunately, these influences often tend to lower their hands to the worsts of our society including racism and classism. This can ultimately create environmental racism…

REJECT HIDDEN MINING APPROVALS IN COVID-19 RELIEF LEGISLATION

Hard rock mining is considered to be the most toxic industry in the US. That’s why a nationwide coalition of environmental & public health advocates are calling on Congress to reject hidden industry handouts in the COVID-19 relief package…

NEW MEXICO RULES ON FRACKING

Environmentalists leveled sharp criticisms at rules dealing with recycled water produced during oil and gas extraction in New Mexico. Environmentalists also criticized regulators for offering a rule they claim is too narrow to address environmental and public health concerns and abdicates responsibility to other state personnel who also don’t have a rule that addresses their worries…

WHY WE SUPPORT THE CLIMATE EQUITY ACT

Since 1987, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has worked alongside communities in our state in the name of environmental justice. Our staff and attorneys pursue legislation and court battles on behalf of clients, working on cases that often take years of court filings and appeals to wind their way through the legal system.

NEWS

Petition Against Uranium Mines Gets Human Rights Hearing

Navajo Nation Says No To More Uranium Mining Development

By Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

August 3rd, 2021 

Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining(ENDAUM) just said No! to the U.S. government to further uranium development. Finally, after drawing that line 10 years ago, their case alleging the U.S. violated the human rights of Navajo communities will be heard by the International Human Rights Body, an independent commission of the Organization of American States (OAS) based in Washington, D.C….

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Petition on Diné Human Rights Violations Accepted for Merits Hearing

Friday, July 16, 2021, Gallup Independent

By Kathy Helms, Special correspondent

khelms@gallupindependent.com

SANTA FE – In a potentially “groundbreaking” case, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has agreed to hear the merits of a petition filed a decade ago by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center on behalf of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining and several of its grassroots members.

The petition alleges that the United States, through its U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, violated Eastern Navajo Diné’s human rights and breached its obligations under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man when, in 1998, the federal agency granted Hydro Resources, Inc. a license to conduct uranium mining at four sites in the Navajo Nation communities of Churchrock and Crownpoint. …

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Mountain View Neighborhood Wins Small Victory In Fight Against Asphalt Plant

City Environmental Health Dept. Backs Off Efforts to Disqualify Air Quality Control Board Members

By Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

July 12th, 2021 

Small victories can mean a lot when you have endured a long history of environmental injustice and environmental racism in your community. Members of the Mountain View coalition and their attorneys from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center NMELC were elated when the City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) backed off its efforts to get three board members kicked off the Air Quality Control Board (AQCB) for bias. EDH recently withdrew four motions on July 10 just ahead of a scheduled hearing set for July 17 to disqualify board members from a case against a hot mix asphalt batch plant proposed by New Mexico Terminal Services (NMTS)….

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