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Bernalillo County Commissioners will be looking at approving the next step in getting the controversial Santolina development started on Albuquerque’s Westside…The biggest concern by opponents from the beginning has been water. An appeal by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center has been filed an appeal on behalf of opposing organizations. KRQE.com
Go to KRQE.com for full story.
We are celebrating 30 years of protect the places, resources and people of our great state. Please reserve the evening of OCTOBER 7, 2017 for a special event!
Stay tuned for details!
“Mr. Chambers had signed the petition in the name of Magdalena Schools and the problem is only the board can enter into a lawsuit for the school, not the superintendent. And this is a lawsuit,” Jaramillo said. “The concern by the school board at the time on Monday was is this going to cost us something…so we felt like it was OK to withdraw and instructed (Superintendent) Dr. (Vannetta) Perry to go ahead and write the letter to withdraw the [protest] on the petition.”
However, in a telephone interview, Meiklejohn told El Defensor Chieftain there was, in fact, no lawsuit and that the normal application process was on schedule. El Defensor Chieftain
Go to El Defensor Chieftain for full story.
Commission reverses effort to bury ordinance, Special meeting March 14
With help from the Law Center and its members, affected community members have a chance to push for a three year moratorium on uranium mining in McKinley County.
Click to read meeting noticeA special meeting on uranium mining is scheduled before the McKinley County Commission on Tuesday, March 14 at 1:30 pm.
Time: 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Location: McKinley Courthouse, 3rd floor in Commissioner Chambers
Address: 207 W. Hill, Gallup, NM 87301 (map)
Members of the public are strongly encouraged to attend.
This meeting comes after the Law Center threatened to sue the Commission for violating the state’s Open Meetings Act. In violation of the law, the commission had put the moratorium on the agenda of a little-publicized meeting on January 3; after telling community advocates that the moratorium would be heard on January 10. See case page.
Community groups, including Law Center clients Red Water Pond Road Community Association and the Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, worked for years to put a draft ordinance in front of the McKinley County commission. The draft ordinance would place a three year hold on mining while the County holds public meetings to collect information “on the impacts of uranium mining in McKinley County in order to determine whether it is necessary and desirable to develop an ordinance regulating uranium development in McKinley County.”
At the January 3 meeting, Commissioners put aside this proposal. Instead, seemingly at the behest of the uranium industry and State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, they adopted an ordinance encouraging affected residents to contact federal agencies with concerns – something that communities have been doing for decades to little or no avail.
“McKinley County Commissioners have a responsibility to protect their citizens from the devastating environmental and health impacts from past uranium mining,” added Susan Gordon, coordinator for the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE), which includes five groups whose members are impacted on a daily basis by Cold War contamination. “The moratorium would not impact any existing or proposed new uranium mines because there are none that are financially viable in the foreseeable future. The Commissioners should be championing health studies and working to support uranium cleanup. That will bring real jobs and economic growth to McKinley County.”
“Most of the kids in McKinley County don’t know that they live near uranium mines. And the few that do know, understand that they are impacted because of their exposures. Kids are our future. We must take the time to find out about the health impacts and learn how to protect them now and in the future,” said Teracita Keyanna, with Red Water Pond Road Community Association. The Association includes residents who live in the shadow of three Cold War-era uranium Superfund sites.
Despite its failure to meet critical requirements, the massive Santolina juggernaut continues to roll over county approval processes. In January, the Bernalillo County Planning Commission gave its recommendation to approve the B.1 Level Master Plan from the developer.
The Law Center already has lodged its appeal of the Planning Commission’s recommendation with the Bernalillo County Commission, which will be the next body to consider the Level B plans.
In the appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision, Law Center Staff Attorney Jaimie Park protested Santolina’s failure to satisfy the “smart growth” rules adopted by the Bernalillo County Commission for planned communities. At the heart of the appeal is the failure of the developers to prove that the development (or the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority) has the necessary water rights or “wet” water for the 90,000 person development.
Law Center clients, New Mexico Health Equity Working Group, Pajarito Village Association, South Valley Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, SouthWest Organizing Project and several individuals, have asked the County Commission to defer the hearing until the state District Court rules on the Commission’s Level A approvals and Santolina submits all the required documents required under the Level A Master Plan process.
Join us at Santa Fe’s own Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen all through March 2% of each cash purchase will be donated to the Law Center!
It’s a delicious way to support environmental protection in New Mexico. See you there!
Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen
1512 Pacheco Street (map)
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can authorize states to take over certain regulatory duties. Under that program, states must be able to assess penalties against companies that pollute water. But in New Mexico, the state’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) hasn’t been able to do that for years. New Mexico Political Report
Go to New Mexico Political Report for full story.
GRANTS, N.M. — On behalf of two community groups, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center submitted a notice of intent to sue today to the McKinley County Commission identifying a possible Open Meetings Act Violation related to a meeting held in January 2017. Groups signing onto the letter include Red Water Pond Road and Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining. The letter outlines that the county failed to give proper notice about the meeting to the public, and didn’t publish the agenda in advance of the meeting.
At the January 3rd meeting, the Commission took action on a proposed uranium mining ordinance by voting on changes that gutted the policy being considered. Participants at the meeting said that the changes were introduced at the last minute, providing little to no opportunity for the public to vet them and provide comment.
The notice was delivered to the County Commission electronically on Monday, February 13th 2017. According to statute, the commission has 15 days to respond to the complaint. In response to the letter delivery, organizations released the following statements: “The County Commission was voted in by the people. They are responsible to listen to the people and make sure we understand the issues and that we have the opportunity to provide our comments. This process cut out our voices and needs to be redone,” said Anna Benally, with Red Water Pond Road Community Association.
“Most of the kids in McKinley County don’t know that they live near uranium mines. And the few that do know, understand that they are impacted because of their exposures. Kids are our future. We must take the time to find out about the health impacts and learn how to protect them now and in the future,” said Teracita Keyanna, with Red Water Pond Road Community Association.
“McKinley County Commissioners have a responsibility to protect their citizens from the devastating environmental and health impacts from past uranium mining. The moratorium would not impact any existing or proposed new uranium mines because there are none that are financially viable in the foreseeable future. The Commissioners should be championing health studies and working to support uranium cleanup. That will bring real jobs and economic growth to McKinley County,” said Susan Gordon, coordinator for the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment.
“The proposed ordinance is a critical opportunity that allows the county to evaluate the risks of new mining, while also putting safeguards in place to protect McKinley County families, natural resources, and the local economy. We stand in strong support of this ordinance, and support efforts to improve transparency at the county level to ensure that all voices are heard in the decision-making process,” said Talia Boyd, with Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund.
INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Law Center Staff Attorney Jaimie Park and Executive Director Douglas Meiklejohn continue to challenge Bernalillo County’s efforts to approve the 90,000 person Santolina development, which is proposed for Albuquerque’s west side.
Fresh off defeating a third attempt by the developer to knock our appeal of Santolina’s “Level A” approvals out of state District Court, Staff Attorney Jaimie Park challenged a preliminary recommendation for the “Level B” approvals in mid-January.
You can read our appeal along with background information on the Santolina case page.
Bernalillo County continues on its march to approve the ill-advised Santolina development, where developers promise homes for 90,000 people and more than 100,000 jobs on the western bluffs overlooking Albuquerque.
Look closely, though, and there are gaping holes in Santolina’s story. Developers have failed to show that they can provide water, schools, transportation, etc. and that they can do it at “no net expense” to Bernalillo County/Albuquerque taxpayers. Still, the Bernalillo County Commission (BCC) recently approved hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for the project, and the Bernalillo County Planning Commission (CPC) recommended that the BCC adopt the “Level B” approvals for the project.
In January, Staff Attorney Jaimie Park filed our clients’ appeal of the recommendation to the BCC – we anticipate a hearing will begin on March 15th. Two major points in our appeal:
Thanks to our members for investing in this important case!
For years, the Law Center our clients and others have fought a practice by the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to permit air polluting facilities—asphalt batch plants, concrete bagging plants, petrochemical facilities—in low-income neighborhoods of color.
And when we say fight, we mean it: decision-makers refuse even to admit that air quality problems exist in neighborhoods like San Jose, which is home to 1% of the County’s population but a whopping 28% of its air pollution permits.
With your support, Staff Attorneys Eric Jantz and Jon Block spent three days in January representing the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) and San Jose residents Esther and Steven Abeyta in a hearing on the Honstein bulk fuel facility. We don’t have a ruling yet, but we have a fascinating synopsis of the hearing from Esther, along with tweets from SWOP’s hearing correspondent (many of which called out bad behavior on the part of regulators…and at least one cameo tweet featuring comedian Dave Chappelle…)
Key to our case is this point: under the Air Quality Control Act, EHD is required to take into account “cumulative impacts” from multiple sources of air pollution in a neighborhood when determining if a new facility or expansion would exceed air quality standards. EHD denies that it is required to do so, and even denies that there is poor air quality in these neighborhoods, despite significant anecdotal evidence and data from citizen air sampling.
SWOP streamed the hearing on their Facebook page, and its staff tweeted their impressions of the hearing. We will soon submit closing arguments.
Following is a synopsis of Honstein Bulk Fuel Facility permit appeal by our client, Esther Abeyta (residents of San Jose Neighborhood and neighbor to the Honstein facility in the South Valley).
Hello my friend,
Thank you for the prayers, support and testimonies of concerns for the families of San Jose and Mountain View at the Honstein Air Quality Permit hearing. Steven and I would like to give an update on the three day Honstein Oil hearing.
The hearing began on Wednesday with Hearing Examiner Felicia Orth stating Air Quality Control Board Chair, Jane Cudney-Black recused herself from the hearing. What was not said, the reason Ms. Cudney- Black recused herself for working on Ron Honstein’s air permit application as a professional consultant.
Wednesday, Jan 11, 2017
Kitty Richards [hover for info] – talked about the public health issues identified in San Jose and how many polluting industries are located in the neighborhood. She mentioned the income and health disparities occurring in San Jose. Companies that pollute usually locate in neighborhoods of color that are in poverty. When Kitty spoke of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds may be a contributor to the reduction in life expectancy and the diseases in the neighborhood the City Environmental Health Division’s (EHD) attorney Eric Ames kept objecting especially when Kitty spoke about cumulative impacts.
Juan Reynosa [hover] – talked about the air bucket and particular matter testing. This included how the campaign was started in New Mexico. The City EHD’s attorney Eric Ames made every attempt to discredit the air bucket brigade. Juan mentioned environmental justice, cumulative impacts and said San Jose is in a cancer cluster and the community has issues with asthma.
Dr. Dana RowanGould [hover] – Picked up where Kitty left off, explaining the disparate impacts affecting the San Jose neighborhood. She said there is high potential for cumulative effects, health impacts and a cumulative risk assessment should be completed. My personal summary is; she said, because of large amount of stationary and mobile polluting industries in San Jose people living in the area are more susceptible of getting sick from the exposure to pollution.
Public Comments - started off with SWOP’s Javier Benavides talking about environmental racism and how EHD is protecting the polluting industries and not the neighborhood. The communities public testimonies included the following topics; odors, cumulative impacts, lack of help from Environmental Health Department and Air Quality Board, the vulnerable are getting sick, when visiting the area you may get a headache, environmental racism, why spend the amount of money to fight the community instead of using the money to help the community, the moral issues of not protecting the community, Honstein Oil is located right across the street from homes and children playing in front of Honstein Oil, San Jose is not a throwaway community, quality of life in San Jose, precautionary principal, mission of Environmental Health Department is prevention and abatement of air pollution, zoning issues, bad air quality hotspots, residents lived in San Jose before industry, industry encroachment, environmental contamination, disparate impacts, shorter life span, health of the community, human rights, many new air permit applications and approvals.
Councilor Isaac Benton – Gave testimony on zoning and made a very important point that the residents were in San Jose before the industry. I hope and pray that Councilor Benton with the testimony he made will protect the families in the Pocket of Poverty along the rail yards by requiring the City’s Zoning and Planning Department to consider cumulative impacts and limit in the ABC-Z Comp Plan conditional use and/or special request by the polluting industries wanting to locate in our neighborhoods.
Steven & I are sorry on how the City EHD’s contracted attorney Eric Ames badgered many of the people giving public testimony. We are grateful for your testimony and support. The community of San Jose may be poor but we are blessed with friends that care about us.
Two proponents for Honstein Vernon Hershberger and Mark Maier made comments supporting Honstein, EHD and AQD. Vernon Hershberger made a second day appearance stating in the twenty years he has dealt with AQD and the board he has never experienced any environmental racism. Our attorney asked Mr. Hershberger at the end of his public comment, what is his ethnicity. Mr. Hershberger replied Caucasian. It was interesting when Hershberger and Maier stated their comments and support for Honstein, AQD and the board, City’s EHD attorney Eric Ames never once objected. However, during the public testimony our people expressing their concerns for San Jose were questioned and objected by Eric Ames.
Thursday, Jan 12, 2017
Dr. George Thurston [hover] is an extremely qualified technical expert. With all of his educational degrees, studies, and research papers written by Dr. Thurston exceeded all of the Air Quality Department’s education. It was embarrassing when the City EHD’s lawyer Eric Ames tried his best to discredit Dr. Thurston. Dr. Thurston explained how the community of San Jose is located between BNSF Railroad and I-25 and has high concentrations of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, and together these compounds are associated with adverse health effects. He mentioned how lower social economic conditions in a neighborhood will likely attract polluting industries.
Thursday afternoon public comments - George Luján for years has attended many city and county hearings, rarely speaks at hearings, found himself needing to express his concerns on the hearing process. EHD attorney Eric Ames objected to George’s comment on San Jose suffering from server health impacts. George continued to state the communities sense of confusion of what we (City of Albuquerque) are doing at the hearing, spending thousands of dollars for an attorney and experts to discredit the community, and AQD not investing in improving the conditions of the community.
Air Quality Division staff - Israel Tavarez, Regan Eyerman, Travis Miller - All approached the stand with binders containing a script they read to the board. Carol Parker would ask a scripted question and the staff would read a scripted answer. When Regan Eyerman was asked if someone wrote the script for her by Eric Jantz, Regan had a slip of the tongue stating City’s EHD Carol Parker attorney collaborated with Air Quality Division to prepare the questions and answer scripts. I guess she (Carol Parker) felt it would be a risk to let the AQD staff speak freely.
Friday, Jan 13, 2017
Daniel Gates – Senior Environmental Health Scientist for EHD spoke about how the City of Albuquerque is in compliance with EPA and gave data on air quality monitors located throughout the city.
EHD’s $40,000 Toxicology Expert Dr. Kathryn Kelly- after a first time visit to these community of San Jose for just 3 hours is more than enough time for her to make a determination on the air quality in San Jose. Her job at the hearing was to trivialize the air quality issues in San Jose, air bucket brigade, PM testing and to try to discredit the qualified expert witnesses testifying against Honstein Oil.
Danny Nevarez – EHD Deputy Director stated AQD staff are a dedicated group of people who are committed to protecting the air quality. They are the ones who impose the conditions on businesses and ensure they are taking the right measures to protect the air quality. He wants to address the gaps AQD has with communities. He stated the department is making an effort to reach out to communities. Danny mentioned my name and my earlier comment – “the only reason AQD is reaching out to the communities is because of the Civil Rights complaint that was filed”. I guess he feels this is an obstacle because he mentioned it.
Friday morning and afternoon public comments - Crimi Andrade and Marisol Archuleta discussed how she lives a mile away from Honstein Oil. The future of our children living in polluted neighborhoods. She can’t let her children play outside sometimes because of the smells. Marisol said our taxes dollars are being used to pay a salary for an attorney who is against our communities. The board needs to look at themselves and at her children. They are using technical experts to fight against us. Sad as it is we have to beg to measure our air quality and to hear them (the City) say our measures where not accurate. Crimi said corporations have a heart and no longer make money of the back of communities, For the board to do something for the community and not against the community. We want to leave something nice for our children.
Richard Moore talked of environmental injustice and racism. If they (the AQD Board) lived in communities that was surrounded by many facilities from railroad to slaughter house and General Electric. They might be stressed and fearful of additional permits to facilitates. Justice has not taken place in the community of San Jose. San Jose has not been treated as justly as other communities. Combinations of cumulative impacts is responsible for poisoning and contaminating of our sisters, brothers, family members and neighbors. He agrees with the residents of San Jose and urged the board not to agree with the permit or additional permit of the facility (Honstein).
Eric Jantz did a wonderful job asking pertinent questions to get a better understanding from the expert witnesses. At the precise moments when necessary he asked for objections and gave adequate explanations why he called for an objection. On the flip side of the coin, Eric was able to fend off objections from the attorneys representing the City of Albuquerque. Eric was eloquent on redirects and cross examination. Eric also received great advice from Jon Block, Dr. Dana RowanGould, Dr. George Thurston whom assisted Eric throughout the hearing. The preparation from New Mexico Environmental Law Center showed with the competent confidence from Eric Jantz and Jon Block.
Carol Parker for the City of Albuquerque demonstrated poise and fortitude during the grueling three-day hearing. Eric Ames pushed the limits of arrogance in badgering the witnesses even though this was an administrative hearing and not a murder trial.
The hearing ended with the hearing examiner stating the board will be the first to receive a copy of the hearing transcript. Then the transcript becomes public - the attorneys will review the transcript and send in their rebuttals to the board. Steven & I will let you know the results of the hearing as soon as we hear the Air Quality Control Board’s decision. I hope and pray the board will consider cumulative impacts, the concerns of everyone who spoke at the public comments and force the Air Quality Division to take responsibility to protect the families of San Jose air quality from the odors, PM1 and PM2.5 they are breathing in every day.
Thank you for all the compassion and support you have given the families of San Jose.
SANTA FE, N.M. — With President Trump’s announcement today of Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center - a nonprofit law firm whose attorneys have worked for 30 years to protect vulnerable communities from environmental harm - urges the U.S. Senate to vote against the nomination.
NMELC staff believe that the appointment of Judge Gorsuch will create a Court that does little to stand in the way of a concerted rollback of more than 60 years of federal environmental protections.
“A Supreme Court that hands down decisions based on a far-right ideology poses a significant threat to the vulnerable communities of the United States and our natural resources,” says Eric Jantz, Staff Attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “Before they vote to confirm Judge Gorsuch, we urge our nation’s senators to remember that many of our nation’s environmental laws were adopted in response to significant—sometimes horrifying—problems; take for instance the adoption of the Clean Water Act after the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire because it was so polluted.
“These laws and their implementing regulations have helped immeasurably to make our air healthier, our water cleaner, and people safer. We urge our senators to remember that the ‘environment’ is not simply ‘out there’. It is what we breathe, what we drink, what we eat, and where we exist every day. In a world in which we can - and do - unleash toxic pollutants into our environment, strong laws are paramount to keeping our complex natural and industrial systems in balance,” says Jantz.
For nearly two decades, Mr. Jantz has represented members of New Mexico communities most at risk from contamination and environmental injustice, including Diné (Navajo) communities polluted by Cold War-era uranium mining; Hispanic communities threatened by oil and gas drilling; and Latino/a neighborhoods forced to breathe polluted air because of unjust air permitting processes. Other federal cases on NMELC’s docket include its advocacy for the cleanup of federal facilities such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and Kirtland Air Force Base, and hardrock mining on federal lands.
INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
Environmentally hostile administrations will be making decisions about New Mexico’s communities and resources this year. Coming to the White House is a president who likely will set back federal environmental protections by years, if not decades…Yet these problems will likely mobilize even more New Mexicans to protect the air, water and lands that are so important to us. Together with the state’s advocacy organizations and public-interest attorneys, we can defend the state we love. But we’ll need to work together to make it happen. Green Fire Times
Now, New Mexico Copper Corporation, a subsidiary of THEMAC Resources Group, is trying to reopen a copper mine that ran for just a few months in the early 1980s. And some residents say they don’t want that to happen…NMELC attorney Jaimie Park said the draft study didn’t include adequate baseline data for wildlife and endangered species or the area’s groundwater resources. NM Political Report
Go to NM Political Report for full story