EPA Opens Investigation Into ABQ/Bernalillo County Discriminatory Regulatory Practices

Civil rights. The term encompasses a lot.

In Albuquerque, it means that all residents, regardless of race, ethnicity or country of origin, have the right to breathe clean air…but that right does not translate into healthy air for communities of color. Today we and our client, the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) took one step closer to making healthy air for all communities a reality.

We just received a letter stating that the EPA will investigate our complaint that the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board and City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department (formerly the Air Quality Division) are discriminating against people of color when deciding where to permit air pollution.

Visit case page.

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07/26/2016 • Back to top

Lowered deadline standards on new nuclear cleanup plan worries some

Jon Block, a Santa Fe attorney helping Nuclear Watch in a lawsuit against the Environment Department over the cleanup issue, said consent orders on waste cleanup are supposed to allow states to hold the federal government accountable to complete the clean up. Instead, he argued that the state Environment Department is doing the opposite.

“They’ve turned over the cleanup to the polluter,” Block said in an interview. “Instead of being the enforcer of noncompliance, they’re the cooperator, the negotiator, ‘we’re your pal.’” New Mexico Political Report

Go to New Mexico Political Report for full story.

07/22/2016 • Back to top

Cut the Public Out of Water Pollution Decisions?

NMED’s proposed changes to statewide water rules could cut public out of decisions about water pollution.

not so public
      Click for infographic

New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is in the process of revising statewide surface water and groundwater regulations for the state. We’ve flagged some significant problems with how the Martinez Administration is trying to strip provisions for public participation and streamline the permitting process for polluters.

You can read our legal synopsis of the problems here.

This process is far from glamorous. But it’s critically important for New Mexicans who could be impacted by facilities that pollute groundwater (and who might not even know it until it’s too late) if these new rules take effect.

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07/20/2016 • Back to top

Grit: Reflections on a uranium march

Dusty and weary, our small Law Center contingent returned with the other community members to the shelter. The Commemoration Walk marked the 37th anniversary of the United Nuclear radioactive spill – the largest accidental release of radioactive material in U.S. history.

It was a beautiful day punctuated by sharp gusts of wind that drowned out speakers and animated the parachute roof of a new shelter erected by members of Red Water Pond Road Community. After an hour of presentations by residents and allies, a fine layer of dust coated our camera and clothes. We had dust in our eyes and in our ears. Grit in our teeth and nose. Snot turned a grainy black-brown.

Sitting there in the shadow of two abandoned uranium mines, I couldn’t help but think about the dust. And what radioactive particles might be hitched to each blowing speck…

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07/20/2016 • Back to top

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

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