This is the archive of the latest press releases from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Feel free to redistribute. We have an RSS feed for keeping up to date on NMELC's work. Sign up by clicking the orange RSS icon on the right side of the navigation bar, above.
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed its Brief in Chief yesterday in an appeal against the adoption of the Copper Rule - a rule that regulates discharges from copper mines. The brief argues that the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) violated the state’s Water Quality Act when it adopted the Copper Rule, and asks the Court of Appeals to set the rule aside.
“This rule, on its face, allows toxic pollution into groundwater,” says Bruce Frederick, NMELC Staff Attorney. “Given that sixty-five percent of our state is currently in severe drought or worse – including Grant County where Freeport McMoRan’s massive copper mines are located – our decision-makers should be developing rules that protect groundwater. The law is clear in New Mexico: water is a public resource, and it must be protected.”
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Mining Commission voted today to deny an effort by the humate mining industry to further weaken protections in the New Mexico Mining Act regulations. A September 17th decision by the Mining Commission allowed humate mines to disturb twice as many acres without doing the environmental review required for other mines this size under the Mining Act. Not satisfied with the ability to disturb twice as much land as other mines, the humate mining industry a motion to reconsider the September decision. The Mining Commission denied the motion.
SANTA FE, N.M.— On December 27th, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed its Brief in Chief in an appeal arguing that the New Mexico Construction Industry Commission violated several laws when it made a second decision to roll back the Energy Efficient Building Codes adopted in 2010. The NMELC represents the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Environment New Mexico, Sundancer Creations Custom Builder, LLC, and several individuals in their effort to mandate energy efficiency in new buildings in New Mexico.
The Commission’s first decision that removed the Energy Efficiency Codes was reversed by the State Court of Appeals in April of this year in an appeal filed by the NMELC and its clients. The Commission made its most recent decision against energy efficiency in July of this year. The codes affected are the New Mexico Electrical Code, the New Mexico Energy Conservation Code, the New Mexico Mechanical Code, and the New Mexico Plumbing Code.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is pleased to announce the winner of the Karl Souder Award for Water Protection is William C. Olson. The award was presented at an invitation only event in Santa Fe on December 8, 2013.
Mr. Olson, former chief of the ground water quality bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department, retired in 2011 after holding that position for seven years. Prior, he worked for the Oil Conservation Commission’s environmental bureau for nearly 13 years. After his retirement, he continued to work to protect groundwater resources working for the Department as a consultant and, most recently, testifying as a private individual against the adoption of the current Copper Rule.
SANTA FE, N.M.— The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) announces the “winner” of the Toxic Turkey Award for 2013 is Ryan Flynn, Secretary-Designate of the New Mexico Environment Department. The NMELC’s Toxic Turkey Award is given to a person or group that has shown extraordinary disregard for New Mexico’s environment.
The newly appointed Secretary-Designate has made every effort to offer up New Mexico’s public health and natural resources to irresponsible polluting industries including copper mining and industrial dairies.
SANTA FE, N.M.— Today an appeal of the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission’s (WQCC) adoption of copper mining groundwater regulations was filed by Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP) and Turner Ranch Properties, L.P., represented by New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), and Amigos Bravos represented by High Desert Energy + Environment Law Partners. The groups are challenging the adopted copper mining rules because they expressly allow water pollution rather than prevent it. Proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department and the global copper mining company, Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold, the rules mark the first time in 36 years that the WQCC has set aside its mandate to protect the quality of the state’s scarce groundwater resources.
“At the request of Freeport McMoRan, the Commission adopted a regulation that allows extensive and permanent groundwater pollution at all copper mines,” says Bruce Frederick, NMELC Staff Attorney. “We are appealing the rule because we think it’s unconstitutional and diametrically opposed to the Commission’s express statutory mandate, which is to prevent water pollution.”
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Mining Commission voted on September 17th to change mining regulations to allow larger humate mines without comprehensive environmental review. The rule change allows humate mines to disturb twice as many acres at a time without doing the environmental review that is required under the mining act for other mines this size. (Humate is a coal-like substance that is used primarily as a soil additive.) Amigos Bravos, represented by New Mexico Environmental Law Center, opposed the rule change and presented testimony in opposition to the change.
“By giving the humate mining industry special treatment under the law, this rule change sets a dangerous precedent,” said Rachel Conn, Amigos Bravos’ Project Director. “We are concerned that other mining industries in the state will want the same ability to disturb more land without appropriate environmental oversight.”
Community and environmental groups to appeal
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) voted today to adopt copper mining groundwater regulations that expressly allow water pollution rather than prevent it. The rules, proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department and the global copper mining company, Freeport-McMoRan, marks the first time in 36 years that the Commission has set aside its mandate to protect the quality of the state’s scarce groundwater resources.
“For years, Freeport has fought to have here in New Mexico the same unchecked power it enjoys in undeveloped countries,” says Bruce Frederick, Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC). “The company wants to pollute groundwater with no limits, and now they have convinced this Administration to let it do just that.”
Learn more about the Copper mine groundwater regulations case.
SANTA FE, N.M. — Today, The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) voted to set a March 2014 meeting to hear the dairy industry’s petition to substantially weaken groundwater discharge rules. The WQCC endorsed the New Mexico Environment Department conducting a stakeholder advisory process on the changes to the rules prior to the March hearing. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) with support and assistance from Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) represents clients, the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club and Amigos Bravos, who are opposed to the changes.
“Our clients are cautiously optimistic about that the Environment Department’s decision to advocate for conducting a stakeholder advisory process,” says Jon Block, NMELC Staff Attorney. “Now it’s at least possible to work toward changes to the regulations so that our scarce and precious water resources will be protected from pollution by these mega-dairies.”
Learn more about the New Mexico Dairy Discharge Regulations case.
On Monday, August 26th, the hearing will begin on a petition by the mining company Mineris Vitae LLC, to weaken the New Mexico Mining Act Rules as they apply to humate mines. Under the Mining Act Rules, all mines over ten acres must comply with comprehensive monitoring and environmental regulations, but this company wants a special favor for the humate mining industry.
The company has petitioned the New Mexico Mining Commission to allow humate mines up to 60 acres to dodge required protective regulations. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) represents client Amigos Bravos in opposition to the petition. (Get Notice of Intent to Present Technical Testimony [large file]).
“If the Mining Act Rules are amended to accommodate this mining company’s wishes,” says Douglas Meiklejohn, NMELC Executive Director and lead attorney on the case, “what is to stop all mining companies from seeking the same treatment?”
* * HEARING EXTENDED * *
WHAT: Humate Mining Regulation Amendment Hearing
WHEN: September 17th, starting at 8 am
WHO: New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Amigos Bravos
WHERE: Porter Hall, Wendell Chino Building, 1220 South St. Francis Drive Santa Fe, NM 87505 (map)
SANTA FE, N.M. — In a hearing this morning, state District Court Judge Raymond Ortiz handed a victory to community groups in a case concerning Rio Grande Resources’ Mount Taylor uranium mine near Grants. In a ruling from the bench, he agreed that the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division (MMD) failed to provide the public with meaningful opportunities to participate in the process to renew the mine’s standby mining permit. The ruling is significant because it upholds the requirement that the public must be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in permitting decisions about hardrock mines in New Mexico. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) presented oral arguments for clients Amigos Bravos and the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE)
“Those of us from working class communities struggling the health and environmental effects of past uranium mining were especially gratified with today’s ruling,” says Candace Head-Dylla, of the Blue Valley Downstream Alliance, a group comprised of residents who live near the mine and a member of MASE. “It is so difficult for people with full-time jobs to participate in the first place, but when Governor Martinez’s MMD permits a project before we even get a chance to participate at all makes it particularly disheartening. Our legislators and our courts have afforded us these rights. It is encouraging that MMD will be forced to abide by the law.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - On June 13th, the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) filed over 500 pages of comments with the U. S. Forest Service urging the agency choose the “No Action” alternative when evaluating the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Roca Honda uranium mine. MASE, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC), state the draft EIS suffers from numerous errors and omissions, and violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“The forest service admits they will break federal NEPA laws and other laws designed to protect human health by permitting the Roca Honda mine,” says Nadine Padilla, MASE Coordinator. “They erroneously believe they have to permit the mine, and that’s not the case. MASE believes we need to protect our local water sources instead of letting companies destroy it.” Visit case page
SANTA FE, N.M. - On June 6th, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission issued its final order adopting most of the oil and gas industry’s proposed changes to the oil and gas waste pit regulation (the Pit Rule). As it stands, New Mexico has lost major groundwater and public health protections during a time of unprecedented drought. The losses include reduced setbacks for mining waste pits from homes, schools and fresh water sources. The new Pit Rule also now allows “frack lakes,” artificial lakes filled with toxic drilling waste fluids.
“The new Pit Rule calls them multi-well fluid management pits,” says Eric Jantz, New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) Staff Attorney, “but they are really multi acre artificial lakes filled with toxic fracking fluids. They have no size limit. These lakes are new to New Mexico and they may remain in place until drilling or fracking operations are completed – typically ranging from 5-15 years.”
SANTA FE, N.M. - Today, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed a request for a public hearing regarding a proposed permit revision to put the Mt. Taylor uranium mine on active status. The mine, near Grants, NM, has been inactive (on “standby” status) without cleanup for 23 years. The mine’s owner, Rio Grande Resources, received a fourth renewal for the standby permit in January 2012, but on April 12, 2013 it notified the public it was seeking a revision to change the mine’s status to “active”. The NMELC filed the hearing request on behalf of its clients, Amigos Bravos and the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE).
Go to case page.
SANTA FE, N.M. - The New Mexico Court of Appeals struck down an effort by the Martinez Administration to repeal regulations favorable to the environment and reinstated the state’s energy efficiency building codes.
The energy codes, adopted before Governor Martinez came into office, were repealed by the State Construction Industries Commission in the summer of 2011. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) appealed the Commission’s move on seven grounds, including that the Commission failed to state the reasons for its decision as is required of all administrative agencies. The Court of Appeals agreed, and reversed the Commission’s decision. (Get PDF of Court of Appeals ruling)