NMELC in the News

Sen. Martin Heinrich gains support in effort to reinstate federal oil and gas methane rules

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus

April 23, 2021

Oil and gas companies and Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Main joined U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) efforts to restore federal controls on methane emissions from oil and gas operations, a reversal of multiple regulatory rollbacks enacted by former-President Donald Trump.

Heinrich and a group of Senate Democrats previously introduced a resolution under the Congressional Review Act, seeking to rescind the Trump administration’s cancellation of policies of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that saw it regulating methane released from multiple sectors of the oil and gas supply chain….

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Kirtland AFB to hold virtual meeting on jet fuel spill cleanup

By Alyssa Bitsie, KRQE

April 22, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Air Force will give another update on the jet fuel spill at Kirtland Air Force Base. The leak, first detected more than 20 years ago, contaminated both soil and groundwater. The base has been working for decades to clean it up but it’s been an extremely slow process. Thursday night’s meeting will be held virtually starting at 6 p.m.

According to a news release from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, between five million and 24 million gallons of jet fuel remain underneath the ground in Albuquerque’s aquifer in a giant plume discovered in 1999. …

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Lujan Grisham Signs Bill to Allow State to Get Tougher than Feds on Environmental Policy

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current Argus

April 12, 2021

A bill New Mexico Democrats pushed as allowing for greater state control of environmental regulations was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham following the 2021 Legislative Session.

Senate Bill 8 allowed the State to set environmental standards “more stringent” than federal law, a change from how the law is currently written to allow state regulations by “no more stringent” than policies enacted at the federal level.

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Can a Wildlife Refuge Help a Community’s Fight for Environmental Justice?

By Jessica Kutz, High Country News

April 9, 2021

Albuquerque’s South Valley was once a thriving oasis of food production watered by a network of historic irrigation canals, or acequias. Today it’s home to several historic neighborhoods along the Rio Grande including Mountain View.

After much of the area was rezoned in the 1960s, the residents, who are mainly Chicanos as well as recent immigrants, came under siege by the structural forces of environmental racism that dictate who lives near polluters and who doesn’t. Mountain View was soon enveloped by industry — auto recyclers, Albuquerque’s sewage plant, paint facilities, and fertilizer suppliers — that left a legacy of contaminated groundwater, two Superfund sites and high levels of air pollution. 

Now, six decades later, Mountain View is facing yet another transformation….

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Proposal in South Santa Fe Has Kids Speaking out on Environmental Justice

By Sean P. Thomas, Santa Fe New Mexican

March 27, 2021

When El Camino Real Academy teacher Ed Gorman became aware of a proposal to consolidate two asphalt facilities into one larger complex just miles from the southwest Santa Fe school, it sparked an idea.

He broached the topic with his fifth grade science students to gauge their interest in the proposal, taking it as an opportunity to engage them in the nuts and bolts of public policy and the intersection between civic government and the environment….

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Air Quality Permit for Asphalt Company Considered

By Isabella Alves, Albuquerque Journal

March 23, 2021

SANTA FE – Approval of Associated Asphalt and Material’s air quality permit will soon be in the hands of the state Environment Department.

But it could take more than three months before the department reaches a decision that would allow the company, located off N.M. 599 near the Santa Fe Regional Airport, to consolidate its operations. Hearing officer Gregory Chakalian has 30 days to file his report, which will then go to the department for review….

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Southside Residents Oppose Asphalt Plant Proposal

By Isabella Alves, Albuquerque Journal

March 14, 2021

Associated Asphalt and Materials wants to consolidate its two asphalt plants located near Santa Fe Regional Airport at the south end of town, but opponents are calling the presence of the plants “environmental racism.”…

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Private Right of Action Supports a Healthy Environment

By Georgene Louis and Virginia Necochea, Santa Fe New Mexican

March 13, 2021

House Bill 50, the Private Right of Action for Certain Statutes, is definitely getting a lot of attention at the Roundhouse, especially from those opposed. HB 50 would allow an affected individual or organization — in addition to the state or local or tribal government — to sue companies that have broken environmental laws. Given HB 50 is gaining traction, we wanted to clarify lingering misconceptions about this bill. …

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Santa Fe Asphalt Fight Takes Toxic Turn

By Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

March 9, 2021

Like many states, New Mexico’s air quality is worsening. The American Lung Association reported in 2020 that vehicle emissions, drought and oil-producing ozone pollution are major contributors. Living in a minority-majority state, many New Mexicans are familiar with environmental racism, which is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. From the San Juan Basin to the Permian Basin and everywhere in between, low-income communities and primarily communities of color have had to go to the back of the bus when it comes to pollution vs. dollars, health vs. illness….

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Pollution control bill advances to New Mexico Senate Floor, oil and gas industry dissents

By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus

March 5, 2021

Air pollution controls adopted by The State of New Mexico could be made tougher than federal law as a bill advanced in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday and could next face a vote on the Senate Floor.

Sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth (D-25), Senate Bill 8 was intended to allow the State to adopt air pollution controls as stringent or tougher than federal restrictions through the New Mexico Environment Department and the Environmental Improvement Board.

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Not a Drop of Water to Spare

By Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

March 4, 2021

The fast and furious pace of regulation hearings, combined with a slew of legislative bills and amendments, appears to have blindsided New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) members and left them trying to figure out a way forward. NMOGA stated in an email, “The legislature has been fast-tracking bills that put oil and gas jobs and billions of dollars in state revenues in jeopardy, severely limiting funding for our schools, roads, first responders and healthcare.” With leases stockpiled, pre-Biden administration NMOGA members won’t run out of land to drill or frack for many years—even with the federal leasing moratorium. However, they are running out of water for fracking and are facing massive regulations on the toxic produced water that their industry creates.

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New Mexico Environmental Oversight Increases, But Officials Say More Funding Needed

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

February 28, 2021

A disastrous blowout at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo., released tons of toxic metals and acidic waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers in 2015, resulting in an $11 million settlement with the state of New Mexico.

An open-pit mining operation contaminated Questa’s surface and groundwater badly enough to put it on a federal Superfund list, leading to a recent $2.3 million payout to cover water improvements.

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New Mexico sues feds over LANL cleanup, plans tougher oversight

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

February 25, 2021

State regulators are suing the U.S. Department of Energy for what they say is a failure to adequately clean up legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and they will impose tougher rules for disposing of waste generated at the lab during the Cold War and Manhattan Project.

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Advocates Decry Tabling of Protect Our Water Fracking Waste Bill

By Sierra Club

February 15, 2021, Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to table SB 86 after Chairman Joseph Cervantes (D-31) unprecedentedly silenced proponents of the bill from giving public comment in committee. 

“It was unfortunate to see both the democrats and republicans on Senate Judiciary vote to table SB 86. What needs to be emphasized and understood is that we don’t have a law on the books regulating oil and gas industry waste in N.M. Our priority should be communities who are most impacted by this waste and not industry. Such a travesty.” – Gail Evans, NM Environmental Law Center 

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Bills on Community Solar and Air Quality Permit Denials Pass Committees

By Kendra Chamberlain, NM Political Report

January 29, 2021

The state Senate Conservation Committee passed a community solar bill Thursday after a lengthy debate and multiple amendment proposals. Legislators have introduced various community solar bills over the past years, but the newest version of the bill was drafted by a task force that was created during the last session. 

In the House, the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee passed HB 76, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos. The bill would amend the state’s Air Quality Control Act to allow the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to deny a permit application or revoke an existing permit on the basis of an operator’s poor compliance history. 

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