NMELC in the News

Best way to honor downwinders? Extend, expand RECA

By Mia Montoya Hammersley, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Environmental Law Center
Albuquerque Journal
Guest Column
January 27, 2022

Every summer when I was growing up, I looked forward to the time I would spend with my family in Tularosa. A quiet oasis, these weeks were spent picking fruit from the trees in my grandparents’ yard and racing empty banana split boats through the irrigation ditches with my cousins. My grandfather, Demetrio “Dee” Herrera Montoya, served as mayor of Tularosa for many years. He passed away in 2010 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He and my grandmother were children when the world’s first nuclear weapon was detonated on July 16, 1945, approximately 45 miles from their homes in the Tularosa Basin….

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Lawmakers to consider Green Amendment to New Mexico Constitution

By Scott Wyland Santa Fe New Mexican January 15, 2022 The proposed Green Amendment that would make a clean and healthy environment a constitutional right for New Mexicans will be taken up in the legislative session with strong Democratic backing and virtually zero Republican support. The partisan divide is no surprise to anyone familiar with […]

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NM Environmental Law Center’s Top-10 Environmental Justice Issues For 2022

By NMELC Staff
Green Fire Times
Jan/Feb 2022

For the last four years in Green Fire Times, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has shared our perspective on the top environmental issues to watch in the coming year. Three of those years focused on the gutting of environmental safeguards by the Trump administration; last year we reflected glimmers of hope, both on the national and the state levels, regarding environmental protection. A year later, we again take stock of efforts to hold both regulating agencies as well as industry and polluters accountable for contamination of air, lands and water. Here are our top-10 environmental justice issues for 2022….

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NM’s Best Climate Protector and Worst Polluter Awards

New Mexico Environmental Law Center Hands Out Its Awards For 2021
by Gwynne Ann Unruh
The Paper.
December 26th, 2021
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) has announced the winners of its Annual Environmental Justice Awards for 2021. Four awards were given out this year including the yearly presentation of a tongue-in-cheek environmental injustice “award”— a mock “invoice” to the Toxic Polluter of the year for harming the environment and the health of those who call the Land of Enchantment home.

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New Mexico Environmental Law Center Announces Recipients Of Its EJ Awards For 2021

By Carol A. Clark
Los Alamos Daily Post
December 14, 2021

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) has announced the winners of its Annual Environmental Justice Awards for 2021.

The winners were celebrated during the NMELC’s Annual Member Appreciation & EJ Awards event held Friday, Dec. 10 over Zoom. The four awards given out include the tongue-in-cheek “award” for Toxic Polluter…

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After public pressure, ABQ Council confirms Pfeiffer to environmental board

By Austin Fisher
Source NM
December 14, 2021

Incoming commissioner becomes the first Indigenous person to serve, according to city sources.\

Albuquerque councilors confirmed the appointment of the first Native person ever to serve on the city government’s Environmental Planning Commission, according to city sources. She’ll also be the only woman on the board. 

But it was only after public pressure and a letter-writing campaign from numerous organizations in support of the candidate, who said she experienced discrimination during the vetting process…

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Water Contamination On Military Bases Isn’t New. And That’s A Problem

By Anita Hofschneider
Honolulu Civil Beat
December 3, 2021

Dee Ann Koanui’s memories of the three years she spent as a child living on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are a glorious stream of outdoor adventures.

She and her four siblings spent their days climbing trees and watching alligators at a nearby river, only returning to their four-bedroom home at the end of a cul-de-sac when night fell and the streetlights flickered on.

But Koanui’s rosy recollections were dampened when years later, in her 30s, she learned that Camp Lejeune had been the site of contaminated drinking water for decades, in part due to carcinogenic chemicals used for dry-cleaning services.

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New Mexico lawmakers endorse ‘environmental rights’ bill ahead of 2022 Legislative Session

By Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus
November 26, 2021

A group of New Mexico lawmakers endorsed a resolution that would codify into the State’s Constitution the public’s right to a “healthy environment,” citing ongoing concerns for pollution and climate change.

Known as the “Green Amendment,” the legislation was introduced during the previous 2021 Legislative Session, receiving a “do pass” vote from the Senate Rules Committee but stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It would place into the State’s Bill of Rights language to declare a healthy environment a right of all New Mexicans.

During a recent meeting of the interim Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee, lawmakers from both the House and Senate voted in favor of the resolution on a 6-1 vote.

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New Mexico Regulators Approve Shaft at Nuclear Waste Dump

By Associated Press
U.S. News
November 4, 2021

State environmental regulators have cleared the way for work to continue on a multimillion-dollar project at the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — State environmental regulators have cleared the way for work to continue on a multimillion-dollar ventilation shaft at the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.

Ventilation has been an issue since 2014, when a radiation release contaminated parts of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and forced an expensive, nearly three-year closure, delayed the federal government’s cleanup program and prompted policy changes at national laboratories and defense-related sites across the U.S…

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Heinrich, Lujan look to support ‘clean’ hydrogen through package of U.S. Senate bills

By Adrian Hedden

Carlsbad Current-Argus
November 4, 2021
New Mexico leaders hope state can be leader in emerging fuel source

New Mexico’s two Democrat U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan continued their pursuit of hydrogen to curb carbon emissions from energy generation, joining in the introduction of a package of bills to support the implementation of hydrogen power in the U.S.

The three bills would create grant funding for hydrogen power projects throughout the U.S. to support development of technology to generate “clean” hydrogen, needed infrastructure and research…

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Diné Communities Seek Justice

By Valerie Rangel
Green Fire Times
November 1, 2021

Access to a clean environment is vital to continuation of language and culture for Indigenous communities. The Diné have distinct cultural and spiritual ties to the land. The environment provides subsistence within their traditional homeland. The Diné worldview is that all things are interrelated and interdependent—to exploit or destroy any aspect of creation is to harm one’s self and the balance and harmony of Hózhó. Specific cultural beliefs about uranium instruct that it should not be disturbed…

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‘Ignored for 70 years’: human rights group to investigate uranium contamination on Navajo Nation

By Cody Nelson
The Guardian
October 27, 2021

Rita Capitan has been worrying about her water since 1994. It was that autumn she read a local newspaper article about another uranium mine, the Crownpoint Uranium Project, getting under way near her home.

Capitan has spent her entire life in Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the eastern Navajo Nation, and is no stranger to the uranium mining that has persisted in the region for decades. But it was around the time the article was published that she began learning about the many risks associated with uranium mining…

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Navajo Uranium Mining Case Reaches Important Milestone with Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

By Gwynne Ann Unruh
The Paper
October 25, 2021

“Much of our lands have been exploited by mining companies for profit; they left it contaminated, doing minimal reclamation or none at all to this day,” Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) co-founder Mitchell Capitan said in an Oct. 21 Zoom meeting hosted by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “Water Is Life, and we will protect it for generations to come.”

Unprecedented reckoning is occurring for the U.S. government and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for past and future uranium mining and milling activities on Indigenous lands. The Navajo Diné people believe the NRC violated their human rights guaranteed in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, including the rights to life, health, benefits of culture, fair trial and property. After years of trying, their united voices are being heard…

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Navajo group alleges U.S. violated human rights in uranium mine licensing

By Hannah Grover
New Mexico Political Report
October 22, 2021

With historic uranium mine sites already polluting communities, members of the Navajo Nation have been fighting for 27 years to stop a new mining initiative from starting in the Crownpoint and Church Rock areas.

On Thursday, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining took that fight to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, arguing that the United States and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of Hydro Resources Inc. mines violated the human rights of Navajo Nation residents…

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