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!

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

Group claims discrimination over hearing asphalt plants

by Claudia L. Silva

Santa Fe New Mexican

May 7, 2022

Residents of neighborhoods in southwestern Santa Fe who have fought a proposed asphalt plant consolidation, arguing its effects would amount to environmental racism, also allege they faced discrimination during a public hearing before the New Mexico Environment Department….

read more

It’s a Win for Barclays Bank in the Santolina Saga

Santa Fe-Size Development Could Put a Huge Straw into New Mexico’s Scarce Water

by Gwynne Ann Unruh

The Paper.

May 6, 2022

Hang in there, folks, as the “Santolina Saga” continues. The saga is a win one, loose one, a piecemeal maze of plans, interim use, solar panels, an old tire dump and nearly a decade of court battles. There are Master Plans, Interim Use and Development Agreements ad nauseam. Deciphering the bottom line for the development is like a puzzle the mind can’t quite grasp. …

read more

State adopts rule to require more electric cars

by Scott Wyland

Santa Fe New Mexican

May 6, 2022

New Mexicans will see thousands more electric vehicles available to buy in 2025 when a rule approved by two environmental boards takes effect. 

Dubbed the clean-car rule, it will require that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids make up at least 7 percent of automakers’ new sales within New Mexico — adding up to an estimated 3,800 vehicles. …

read more

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The Law Center succeeds because of the generosity of our supporters and the dedication of our clients.

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Your support for the NMELC is crucial to attain environmental justice for the communities that we serve and ensuring that New Mexico will be a beautiful, healthy place for generations to come.

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Meiklejohn Legacy Circle Fund
will keep the Law Center strong well into the future, providing a stream of income that will fund casework in coming years.

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