NMELC in the News

Petition on Diné Human Rights Violations Accepted for Merits Hearing

Friday, July 16, 2021, Gallup Independent

By Kathy Helms, Special correspondent


SANTA FE – In a potentially “groundbreaking” case, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has agreed to hear the merits of a petition filed a decade ago by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center on behalf of Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining and several of its grassroots members.

The petition alleges that the United States, through its U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, violated Eastern Navajo Diné’s human rights and breached its obligations under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man when, in 1998, the federal agency granted Hydro Resources, Inc. a license to conduct uranium mining at four sites in the Navajo Nation communities of Churchrock and Crownpoint. …

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Mountain View Neighborhood Wins Small Victory In Fight Against Asphalt Plant

City Environmental Health Dept. Backs Off Efforts to Disqualify Air Quality Control Board Members

By Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

July 12th, 2021 

Small victories can mean a lot when you have endured a long history of environmental injustice and environmental racism in your community. Members of the Mountain View coalition and their attorneys from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center NMELC were elated when the City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) backed off its efforts to get three board members kicked off the Air Quality Control Board (AQCB) for bias. EDH recently withdrew four motions on July 10 just ahead of a scheduled hearing set for July 17 to disqualify board members from a case against a hot mix asphalt batch plant proposed by New Mexico Terminal Services (NMTS)….

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New Mexico Oil Oversight Agency, with Restored Authority, Plugs Orphaned Wells, Issues Fines

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

July 7, 2021

The agency that regulates the state’s oil and gas industry is issuing citations and plugging abandoned wells at a faster rate since regaining enforcement power in 2020.

The Oil Conservation Division reported filing 23 complaints against operators — imposing $263,000 in penalties — while plugging 49 orphaned wells, the most in one year since at least 2016. The fines are the first the agency has meted out in more than a decade….

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Mountain View is City’s Industrial Sacrifice Zone

By Nora Garcia, President, Mountain View Neighborhood Association; Lauro Silva, member, Mountain View Neighborhood Association; Marla Painter, President, Mountain View Community Action; David Barber, Board Member, Mountain View Neighborhood Association, President, Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge; and Aryn LaBrake, Executive Director, Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. 

June 28, 2021, Albuquerque Journal

The recent decision by the city of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) to issue an air pollution permit for yet another polluting industry in the Mountain View neighborhood is a blatant case of environmental racism. For decades, Mountain View, a community along the Rio Grande just north of the Pueblo of Isleta, has been disproportionately overburdened with toxic and hazardous contamination.

New Mexico Terminal Services applied for an air pollution permit from EHD to construct a hot mix asphalt plant at 9615 Broadway SE, just south of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in the Mountain View neighborhood. The property is next to the Rio Grande and the bosque, a green corridor that runs through the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The land is zoned for agricultural use; regardless, the city of Albuquerque issued an air pollution permit for the asphalt plant, ignoring Bernalillo County zoning laws.

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EPA to Repeal Controversial Water Rule Impacting New Mexico

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

June 14, 2021

U.S. regulators aim to repeal a contentious Trump-era rule that stirred fierce opposition from conservationists and many New Mexico leaders because it removed most of the state’s water from federal protection.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s head said the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had determined the rule was causing substantial harm to water bodies and pointed to New Mexico and Arizona as among the states most affected….

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Oil Commission Approves Rule Change Forbidding Spills

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

June 10, 2021

The Oil Conservation Commission approved a rule change Thursday that will forbid drillers from spilling oil and toxic liquids — an amendment that activists and affected residents said would help prevent the pollution from occurring….

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Budget Calls for $108 Million Boost for Los Alamos Waste Cleanup

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

June 10, 2021

Los Alamos National Laboratory would receive a $108 million increase for environmental cleanup under its proposed 2022 budget, a dramatic shift from Trump-era efforts to reduce cleanup money.

The newly released draft budget asks for about $334 million for the lab’s cleanup programs — up from this year’s $226 million — and would include removing Cold War legacy waste, demolishing at least one deserted structure and mitigating an underground chromium plume….

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New Mexico Water Advocates Applaud Biden Administration Repeal of Trump-era Dirty Water Rule

By CAVU, KRWG Public Media 

June 10, 2021

Commentary:  Water advocates across New Mexico applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to repeal the Trump Administration’s Dirty Water Rule. The Dirty Water Rule, combined with previous reductions of protections at the federal level in 2001 and 2006, negatively impacts New Mexico more than any state in the nation leaving more than 90% of New Mexico’s waters unprotected by the federal Clean Water Act. …

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Santolina Zone Change Will Require Do-Over Vote

By Jessica Dyer, Albuquerque Journal

May 21, 2021

With the New Mexico Supreme Court’s recent decision not to weigh in on the years-long legal battle over Santolina, the planned community project is bound for a do-over vote by the Bernalillo County Commission to get its desired zone change….

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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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