Groups Ask Judge to Declare New LANL Consent Order Invalid

On behalf of Nuclear Watch New Mexico (NukeWatch), the New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed an amended complaint in its federal case to obtain “reasonable but aggressive” cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Infographic of LANL missed deadlinesThe amended complaint asserts that the Consent Order signed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) on June 24, 2016 is invalid.

Here’s why: the Lab’s 2005 Consent Order had a final cleanup deadline; the new Order has no final deadline for corrective action. A change of a specific final compliance date to no date is essentially an extension of the final compliance date, and therefore a ‘Class 3’ modification, which requires a public hearing. NMED refused to hold a public hearing on the proposed Consent Order this Spring, thus its new Consent Order is invalid.

Read the amended complaint, filed on July 19, 2016.

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07/19/2016 • Back to top

Press Release: Nuclear Watch NM files lawsuit over lack of cleanup at LANL

Nuclear Watch NM Files Lawsuit Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab; NM Environment Dept. Forgoes Nearly $300 Million in Penalties

Our complaint alleges twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. From there we calculate 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to $294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.

Santa Fe, NM - Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), the for-profit operator of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, over their failure to meet cleanup milestones under a 2005 “Consent Order” they agreed to with the New Mexico Environment Department. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and attorney John Stroud are representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce cleanup at LANL.

The suit was filed under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which the 2005 Consent Order explicitly incorporated. The law provides that any person who violates any requirement of RCRA is liable for a civil penalty up to $37,500 for each day of violation. Our suit claims twelve violations, which range in length of time of up to 675 days each. Our current cost estimate of the alleged violations approaches 300 million dollars and counting.

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05/17/2016 • Back to top

NMELC files federal lawsuit against LANL on behalf of Nuclear Watch

On behalf of Nuclear Watch, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday, May 12 over the failure of Los Alamos National Laboratory to comply with a 2005 Consent Order to clean up contamination.

“Los Alamos National Laboratory managers and the U.S. Department of Energy face a potential $487,000-a-day fine if a federal court agrees with allegations that they failed to meet the terms of a hazardous waste agreement with the state.” Continue reading “Nuclear watchdog group sues feds, LANL over 2005 accord”, published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on May 13.

Read the federal complaint, filed May 12, 2016
Read the May 5, 2016 Notice of Intent to Sue (Additional Violations)
Read the January 20, 2016 Notice of Intent to Sue


05/13/2016 • Back to top

Community group asks EPA to revoke uranium mine permit

In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted an “aquifer exemption” to Hydro Resources, Inc. The permit would allow the uranium mining company to pollute the Westwater Canyon Aquifer near the Dine’ community of Church Rock. The aquifer has been identified as a ‘likely future source of drinking water by the Navajo Nation. But circumstances for the mine have just changed in a major way.

On May 4, NMELC Staff Attorney Eric Jantz sent a letter to Ron Curry, Administrator of EPA Region 6, asking that the agency revoke the permit. The letter focuses on three major issues: 2) Hydro Resources’ parent company recently sold the proposed mine to Laramide Resources. Laramide has no experience mining uranium. And “according to Laramide’s last available financial statement, Laramide had working capital of only $103,891 and accumulated losses of over $90 million.” 2) The New Mexico Environment Department terminated the groundwater discharge permit for the Section 8 site. Without both state and federal permits, Laramide cannot begin mining. Read the letter to Secretary Curry and the Letter terminating the state groundwater discharge permit.

The Eastern Navajo Dine’ Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), on whose behalf Eric sent the letter, formed in 1994 to fight the proposed Hydro Resources mines. NMELC has represented the group since 1996.

05/05/2016 • Back to top

Pit Rule Upheld

New Mexico communities will have to live with legacy of contamination for good of industry profits.

Now the bad news – the state Supreme Court declined to review a Court of Appeals decision upholding the Martinez Administration’s oil & gas Pit Rule. The Pit Rule, originally adopted in 2008, was amended in 2013 at the behest of the oil and gas industry by Martinez appointees on the Oil Conservation Commission.

The Martinez Commissioners gutted nearly every substantive provision of the 2008 Rule, and added a provision that allows for oil and gas companies to construct multi-acre “frack lakes” to hold the toxic drilling wastes from multiple oil and gas wells. They based their decision to gut the Rule on economic harm asserted by the oil and gas industry as a result of the Pit Rule. See fact sheet.

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05/04/2016 • Back to top

A Win in Santolina Court Case

Judge in Santolina case blocks developer from shutting down public interest appeals.

We’ve just learned that state District Court Judge Nancy Franchini threw out the majority of the motions by the Santolina developer to shut down our appeal! It’s especially great news, given how badly the public was treated during the “public process” in front of the Bernalillo County Commission. This means that we can continue to appeal the flawed “Level A” planning process for the Santolina mega-development in court, even as our clients challenge the developer’s effort to move its “Level B Master Plan” forward in front of the County Planning Commission.

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05/04/2016 • Back to top

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