Former Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn becomes the first person to be twice awarded the Toxic Turkey
SANTA FE, N.M. — Two New Mexicans were honored by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center on Sunday for their extraordinary contributions to protecting New Mexico’s water; a third was named the first two-time recipient of the Toxic Turkey.
Beginning in 1992, NMELC has recognized people who make incredible contributions to protect New Mexico communities from becoming pollution dumping grounds.
The annual Toxic Turkey is given to draw attention to the actions of a person, agency or company whose actions have endangered New Mexico’s environment. This is the second win for former Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn.
Dale Doremus received the Karl Souder Water Protection Award after spending nearly 30 years as a state regulator with the New Mexico Environment Department, to diligently protect New Mexico’s surface and groundwater. Doremus oversaw various ground and surface water programs, including the Superfund Oversight Section, the Pollution Prevention Section, and the Remediation Oversight Section. With the goal of protecting water for the future, she developed regulations, oversaw permits, and testified in front of legislative committees.
“I am incredibly honored to get this award,” she says. “The work that the New Mexico Environmental Law Center does to represent communities that don’t have legal capacity is critical.”
The Karl Souder Water Protection Award was named in memory of Karl Souder, a hydrologist who worked for the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Division. Karl Souder mentored Doremus during her early years at the division.
Bruce Frederick was honored with the Griff Salisbury Award for Environmental Protection for his exceptional commitment as a former Law Center Staff Attorney who left the employ of the Law Center in early 2015. Since that time, he donated hundreds of weeknight and weekend hours to challenge the Martinez Administration’s adoption of the “Copper Rule”, which allows groundwater pollution by all copper mines in the state, and which – if upheld – could set precedent for other industries who wish to pollute groundwater in our state. The effort culminated in Frederick’s presentation of oral arguments to the state Supreme Court in September, 2016. The Court has yet to issue a ruling in the case.
“I’m really honored to be here tonight,” said Frederick. “I have been fortunate to spend my career working in public service and protecting New Mexico’s environment. An award from such a well-respected organization like the NMELC means I must be doing something right.”
The award is given in honor of Griff Salisbury who was a member of “Friends of Santa Fe County.” The group worked closely with the Law Center to stop the LAC Minerals gold mine from further contaminating the Ortiz Mountains and Galisteo watershed with cyanide and nitrates.
“We are so thrilled to honor the important contributions of Dale and Bruce,” says Douglas Meiklejohn, Executive Director of the Law Center. “They represent two groups that are absolutely critical to protecting New Mexico’s water supplies for the long-term: effective, conscientious regulators and active citizens. We are grateful for their tremendous efforts to protect one of our state’s most important, and scarce, resources.”
Former Secretary Ryan Flynn is the first person to be bestowed with the Toxic Turkey twice.
Flynn earned the second Turkey for his adept use of the “revolving door” between government and industry. Approximately two weeks after he stepped down as New Mexico’s chief environmental regulator, Flynn took the helm of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association – the primary trade group for one of the most polluting industries in New Mexico.
One of his first acts in his new role was an attempt to discredit an Assistant Attorney General working to challenge the Copper Rule. Flynn was foiled in his attempt after the Law Center and its allies challenged his actions on the grounds that it is illegal for individuals to work on issues on which they worked as government employees within 12 months of leaving their posts.
Before he left NMED in August, Flynn was involved in other NMED matters that contributed to his earning the Toxic Turkey this year. Without holding public hearings, he weakened the primary cleanup plan for Los Alamos National Laboratory, and he oversaw the NMED-initiated rulemaking to weaken protections for groundwater and surface water.
The Law Center gave Flynn his first Toxic Turkey in 2013. The Turkey was given for Flynn’s major role in weakening the Environment Department by removing effective regulators from their posts and for advocating for polluting regulations such as the Copper Rule. He also appointed as the Department’s head lawyer an attorney who had graduated from law school less than six months before his appointment.
“It is disappointing that there are decision-makers who merit one Toxic Turkey, let alone two…although perhaps we should have named it the “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing Award” this year,” says Meiklejohn. “Ryan Flynn’s egregious jump from NMED to industry in such a short time confirms our belief that Mr. Flynn was never the right person to protect New Mexico’s environment. The one good thing to come out of this is at least he is no longer in charge of making decisions that impact hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans and the resources upon which they depend.”
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