NMELC in the News

Top 10 Environmental Issues to Watch in New Mexico in 2024

January/February 2024 By NMELC Staff Green Fire Times The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is honored once again to be invited by Green Fire Times to share our list of what we consider to be the Top 10 Environmental Justice Issues for the coming year. This annual...

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Albuquerque Air War: Big Business, Bipartisan Politicos Attack Environmental Justice Rule

December 15, 2023

By Kent Paterson, CounterPunch

Promoting a tourism mystique, the marketers of Albuquerque, New Mexico, peddle images of clean skies, diverse culture and delicious cuisine. The icons encompass soaring hot air balloons, majestic Sandia Mountain vistas and the ubiquitous chile pepper, red or green. But if current political trends hold, the postcard visitors send grandma might depict more spewing emissions, sickly skies and gagging residents.

At least that’s the implication of recent actions by the Albuquerque City Council that sacked the current members of the joint Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board (JAQCB) and blocked a proposed Health, Environment and Equity Impacts rule (HEEI) aimed at protecting low-income communities of color in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County from further, disproportionate air pollution impacts, including the cumulative effects of pollution. …

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A Cruel Movida Against Environmental Justice

November 6, 2023

By V. B. Price, Mercury Messenger

A landmark environmental justice regulation proposed in Albuquerque — undoubtedly the most important of its kind in generations — has so frightened the business community here that it has gone to preposterous and disgusting lengths to undermine and destroy it.

Westside City Councilor and conservative Republican Dan Lewis, a petroleum businessman and pastor, introduced two bills in mid-October that would not only undermine the health of impoverished communities in Bernalillo County but would also deepen the county’s abysmal air quality record. The American Lung Association puts us in the top 25 most polluted metro areas in nation. …

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Boarding Up: New legislation would stifle Albuquerque’s current Air Quality Board and replace it with a new one

November 4, 2023

By Ryan Lowery, The Paper.

An Albuquerque city councilor is seeking to replace a seven-member board tasked with preventing and abating air pollution in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. It’s a plan that isn’t sitting well with many residents of the South Valley, part of the city that is home to a disproportionate number of potentially polluting businesses. …

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Albuquerque Plastic Fire Gives Air Regulators Opportunity ‘to Make the Right Decision’

August 17, 2023

By Austin Fisher, Source NM

Massive, toxic fire comes as grassroots community groups push for historic air regulation

Richard Moore started getting phone calls from his neighbors in the South Valley on Aug. 6.

He followed the path of the smoke, and decided to go up to Mesa del Sol where the Atkore United Poly Systems fire was still burning.

Ten days after the plastic fire, there has still been no official report to residents on the health impacts of the smoke created by burning plastic.

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Board of Regents Approve RPSP Requests

August 14, 2023

By Maddie Pukite, Daily Lobo

Passed unanimously, University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes presented the Legislative Research and Public Service Projects Funding requests for FY 2024 – 2025 to the Board of Regents at their meeting on Thursday, Aug. 10. 

The largest RPSP request for 2025 was $11,941,700 for athletics to improve student-athlete welfare, recruitment and “enhancing the university’s brand”; it was $3.5 million more than last year’s request. 

The athletics request is one of two categorical requests, which are approved for a purpose, rather than a specific project. The other is a $1,097,900 request for educational television like New Mexico PBS. 

 Categorical requests are alongside 23 new requests and 29 expansion requests.  A new request of $997,946 would support the Accelerating Resilience Innovations in Drylands Institute for education and research on how to preserve the people’s economy and the ecosystem of New Mexico. 

Environmental concerns were also brought up during the public comment. Several spoke about the Board of Regents filing to require “review and consideration” of the Health Equity and Environmental Impacts regulation. …

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Navajo Nation Community Pushes to Have Uranium Mine Waste Moved to Nearby Landfill

August 11, 2023

By Hannah Grover, New Mexico Political Report

Residents of a small Navajo Nation community are hopeful that some of the historic mine waste impacting their land and health will be hauled away. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Quivira Mine produced approximately 4.6 million pounds of uranium, making it the third largest uranium mine on Navajo Nation.

As the uranium was hauled off, waste was discarded in a pile that today is located about 200 yards from a residence in the Red Water Pond Road Community. …

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New Amendments, Perspectives Shake up Airpermitting Debate

August 7, 2023

By Drew Goretzka, Albuquerque Business First

New versions of a proposal to change air permitting processes in Bernalillo County are taking stage at ongoing stakeholder meetings.

The original proposal, filed in November 2022 by the Mountain View Coalition, a collection of neighborhood organizations based in South Valley, looks to limit permits being issued in communities deemed “overburdened.”

Business leaders, especially those with stakes in the South Valley, say the proposal would hinder business and development across the county.

The two proposals, submitted by the Mountain View Coalition and the City of AlbuquerqueEnvironmental Health Department (EHD), differ greatly in specificity and intent. …

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Albuquerque Journal Business Outlook Briefcase: New hires, Applause, Etc.

August 7, 2023

By Elizabeth Tucker, Albuquerque Journal/Yahoo Finance

…W.K. Kellogg Foundation with the Center for Creative Leadership has announced the fellows for its 18-month fellowship, which brings together 80 leaders from the foundation’s priority places in the U.S.: Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans.

The New Mexico participants are:

…Corrine Sanchez — works to achieve family and community healing, youth development, and ending violence against Native women, girls and our Earth Mother in San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Neema Kamaria Hanifa Pickett — founder of Kamaria Creations Wellness Retreat a space for Black people to feel supported through internal and external healing modalities in Albuquerque.

Virginia Necochea — the first woman of color to serve as the executive director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, a public interest nonprofit that works alongside frontline communities in upholding environmental justice in Albuquerque.

Natane Ollin Tochtli Lim — worked in early childhood education for more than 20 years in various teaching roles and classroom settings within the Chicagoland area and Albuquerque.

Victoria Domiguez — empowering students and families of color, especially those who are living in extreme poverty, and exploring opportunities that will support them in their day-to-day living in Cuba, New Mexico. …

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South Valley Neighborhood Asking for Air Quality Rule

July 23, 2023

By Alaina Mencinger, Albuquerque Journal

Residents of a South Valley neighborhood, frustrated at being used as a “sacrifice zone” for industry, are asking for a harder look at the impact of pollution before air quality permits are approved.

Mountain View is a Bernalillo County community sandwiched between the Rio Grande and Interstate 25. The area is host to several industrial facilities, including a water treatment plant, several asphalt plants and the Rio Bravo generating station. As early as 2004, the New Mexico Environment Department labeled the neighborhood, whose inhabitants are predominantly Hispanic and low-income, as an “overburdened area.”…

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Feds shoot down mining company’s ask to loosen cleanup standards at toxic uranium mine site

July 6, 2023

By Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico

Environmental groups said they were surprised by the ruling, but expect the fight to continue over site in Cibola County.
In early June, federal regulators rejected a mining company’s proposal to loosen current cleanup standards at a former uranium mining operation in Western New Mexico. 

Beginning in 1958, The Homestake Mining Company operated a mine in Cibola County, just five miles outside the town of Milan. The consequences have carried 65 years into the future. In the early 2000s, one of the world’s largest mining companies, Barrick Gold, bought out Homestake….

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Why won’t City Council address industrial air pollution?

May 9, 2023

Guest Column, Albuquerque Journal



On May 1, under cover of darkness, the Albuquerque City Council voted to put thousands of Bernalillo County residents at risk for asthma, heart disease, cancer and other diseases associated with air pollution.

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are becoming increasingly known for bad air quality – the American Lung Association recently gave Bernalillo County an “F” for air quality related to ozone – and the health effects associated with air pollution. But air pollution does not affect everyone in Albuquerque equally; air polluting industrial permits overwhelmingly impact low-income communities, and communities of color experience the adverse health impacts of air pollution disproportionately….

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San Agustin Water Group Holds Fundraiser

April 27, 2023

by John Larson, El Defensor Chieftain

The late U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater once said a man from the West will fight over three things: water, women and gold, “and usually in that order.”

In 2023, Goldwater’s words still ring true, especially in Socorro and Caton counties, as the 16-year fight over the San Agustin Aquifer continues.

One of the players in that fight, the San Augustin Water Coalition, is sponsoring a 5K Run/1 Mile Fun Run/Walk on Saturday, May 6, to raise money to help with legal fees to help prevent Augustin Plains Ranch LLC (APR) from mining water from the aquifer beneath the San Agustin Plains, west of Magdalena. …

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Joint Motion Dismisses Permit for Asphalt Plant due to Health Concerns

February 21, 2023

by Maddie Pukite, Daily Lobo

Earlier this month on Feb. 8, the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board approved a joint motion that dismissed a hearing for an air quality permit to build an asphalt plant in the Mountain View community in the South Valley of Albuquerque.

The Environmental Law Center joined community organizers in the legal fight to get the asphalt site out of the community in 2018 when the Environmental Health Department issued a permit to New Mexico Terminal Services to create the plant, according to staff attorneys Maslyn Locke and Eric Jantz….

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South Valley Celebrates Revocation of Asphalt Plant’s Permit

February 14, 2023

by Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

The Mountain View Coalition has finally, after years fighting a permit that was issued for another hot mix asphalt batch plant in the South Valley, got the long end of the stick. New Mexico Terminal Services (NMTS) set to operate the plant in the Mountain View neighborhood got the short end of the stick this time.

By unanimous vote, the Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board approved a joint motion to dismiss a request for a hearing on the merits for an air quality permit issued in October 2020 for NMTS to operate the asphalt plant. …

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