The Bernalillo County Planning Commission voted on Wednesday (June 7) to recommend approval of the Santolina’s request to strip water requirements from its Level B approvals. Developer, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings (WALH) has asked the County to disregard mandatory water requirements in its approval process because it does not yet have a necessary water agreement with the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
At Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, commissioners considered WALH’s formal request to remove conditions that require it to prove that the development has water before it can obtain its Level B approvals. The Planning Commission’s recommendation now goes to the Bernalillo County Commission.
NMELC, its clients and allies vow to continue the fight against this ill-advised mega-development.
Our clients (including SouthWest Organizing Project and Pajarito Village Association) won an important victory on June 2 when state District Court Judge Nancy Franchini ruled that the 2015 Santolina approval process was flawed.
Judge Franchini’s decision reverses and remands the Bernalillo County Commission’s (BCC’s) approval of the project’s “Zone Map Amendment,” which changed the zoning for the developer’s site from “A-1 Rural-Agricultural” to “Planned Community”. This step was required before any other approval steps could be taken by the BCC.
On Tuesday, June 6, attorneys for the Law Center submitted a memorandum asking the Judge to clarify her decision.
Santolina developers try to disconnect land use from water
In the 1990s, Bernalillo County adopted an ordinance that lays out very specific requirements for developers seeking to build master-planned communities. Key among them are rules that developers must show that they have both “wet” water and water rights for their projects.
It just makes sense that massive proposed developments like Santolina (which promises housing for 90,000 people and industry for 75,000 jobs) should have to demonstrate that they have adequate amounts water for these new communities.
But guess what…
Water speculators meet stiff resistance from the Law Center
Multinational corporations are working across the world to speculate in and privatize water supplies; despite strong laws and policies preventing speculation in New Mexico, water rights developers are eying our aquifers with a focus on profit.
But they’re having a tough time succeeding with the Law Center in their way.
Case in point: last month, Staff Attorney Jon Block and volunteer attorney Paul Hultin asked a state District Court to throw out a water grab case in the East Mountains of Albuquerque.
SANTA FE, N.M. – Residents of the communities in the East Mountains of Albuquerque, NM, have asked a judge to compel disclosure of the attorneys’ fees and costs of Aquifer Science, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of water development company PICO Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: PICO) that seeks to obtain water rights in the East Mountains.
The non-profit New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed the motion for its clients—Deep Well Protest, San Pedro Creek Estates, and North 14—asserting that the fees and costs highlight the fact that PICO and its shell companies Vidler New Mexico and Campbell Farming Corporation (the owners of Aquifer Science) are merely water speculators with no real plan to put the water to beneficial use.
With your support, Law Center Attorneys Jaimie Park and Doug Meiklejohn and our clients have begun a new fight in the case to protect water and taxpayer dollars from the proposed 90,000-person Santolina mega-development slated for the west side of Albuquerque.
Santolina Level B.1 Master Plan Public Hearing:
When: April 4 at 5 PM
Where: Vincent Griego Room, Bottom level City/County Administration Bldg,
1 Civic Plaza NW, Albuquerque, 87102-9854 (map)
*Sign up online before 3 PM on April 4 to speak.*
As you may have predicted, the system is once again breaking down.
McKinley County Residents Advocate for protections from uranium
As a result of dogged persistence on the part of uranium-impacted residents, the McKinley County Commission promised to create a blue ribbon task force to examine how the County should address possible uranium mining in the future.
The meeting where the task force was promised almost didn’t happen.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
NMELC clients Esther and Steven Abeyta share how you can help fight for clean air for all:
Hello my friend,
I hope this message finds you well. The reason I am writing you today is to invite you to attend on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 (see notice) the Honstein Oil Air Permit hearing finally after four years on the appeal we filed.
A briefing on Honstein Oil. Honstein is a bulk petroleum facility in the community of San Jose located at 101 Anderson SE, right across the street from families’ residential homes. The reason it has taken four years for Steven, Juan, myself, Eric Jantz and Jon Block Attorneys with New Mexico Environmental Law Center to have a hearing in front of the Air Quality Control Board, the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department (EHD) has tried diligently to have the Air Quality Control Board not hear our appeal…
When will the air pollution in Albuquerque’s low-income neighborhoods of color be too much?
This Wednesday, a hearing will convene to determine the fate of a permit for the Honstein bulk fuel facility. The facility, which operated its 6,000 gallon fuel tank for decades without a permit, is located in the San Jose neighborhood of the South Valley of Albuquerque. San Jose has a history of environmental injustice: a majority of residents are Latino/a, and more than 4 in 10 children live at or below the poverty line.
And though the neighborhood is only home to 1% of the County’s population, it is home to 29% of the county’s air pollution permits. The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Environmental Health Department (EHD) approved the permit for the Honstein tank in 2013; we won the opportunity to have a hearing in 2015 to appeal the permit. But this case is about far more than just one permit….