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.

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.

Congratulations to our Executive Director! 

Congratulations to all the awardees of the Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award, including our very own Executive Director, Dr. Virginia Necochea!

This award honors women leaders of color for their commitment to a healthy planet and, according to Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard, “This year’s awardees and finalists demonstrate that women of color are catalyzing change across our field, from environmental justice and energy equity to marine science and health. Their leadership is transforming our world for the better.”

Rachel’s Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit named in honor of Rachel Carson, is a community of women at the intersection of environment, philanthropy, and women’s leadership who exchange ideas and take action on our planet’s urgent challenges. 

Congrats Dr. Necochea!

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.

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. 

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.

NEWS

Changing the Playing Field: Proposed legislation would dramatically change New Mexico’s principal oil and gas law

January 18, 2023

by Jerry Redfern, Capital & Main

Three bills proposed for the New Mexico legislative session would shift the state’s focus on the oil and gas industry by emphasizing public safety and environmental protections, denying permits and increasing penalties for companies in violation of the law, and making it easier for citizen groups to sue scofflaw operators. 

The bills would dramatically redirect the Oil and Gas Act, which was written to protect oil and gas resources for the state’s benefit, to include protecting the environment and the public, particularly marginalized communities. The legislation could be the largest change to the act since it was written in 1935. …

read more

Community Convinces Air Quality Board to Hold Public Hearing

Health, Environment and Equity Impacts Regulation Could Shift Environmental Racism in South Valley 

December 23, 2022

by Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

The South Valley is a clear example of environmental racism and they are fed up with being the dumping ground for decades of a dirty industry that no one else wants. The strength of community organizing paid off for residents there when, spearheaded by the Mountain View Coalition and New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), they were able to convince the ABQ-BernCo Air Quality Control Board (AQCB) to vote unanimously (5-0) to hold a public hearing on their proposed Health, Environment and Equity Impacts Regulation. 

“Most of the burdens and few of the benefits of economic development are experienced by residents in these overburdened communities,” Eric Jantz, NMELC Senior Staff Attorney told the AQCB….

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Air Quality Control Board Votes Unanimously to Hold a Public Hearing on Proposed Equity Impacts Regulation

December 16, 2022

Mountain View Coalition & NMELC Pleased with Last Night’s Decision

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Community members were pleased when the Air Quality Control Board voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the Mountain View Coalition and New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s proposed Health, Environment and Equity Impacts Regulation on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.

The meeting was held hybrid and approximately 50 people attended in person and nearly 70 people attended over zoom. Eighteen community members spoke during public comment in favor of the proposed equity impacts regulation and the need for a public hearing. Other community members submitted written comments in support; State Senator Linda Lopez submitted a letter of support which was read aloud during the meeting.

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