Community Member

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center works to protect the land, air and water around New Mexico and to defend under-resourced communities that are fighting for environmental justice. Founded in 1987 with a mission to ensure a clean environment for all New Mexicans, the Law Center defends citizens against polluters while also working to strengthen environmental regulations throughout the Land of Enchantment. The NMELC has been on the legal frontlines against toxic contaminants from the mining and fracking industries, air pollution from the petrochemical industry, environmental racism that unjustly threatens indigenous communities and people of color, for cleanups in communities that have already been contaminated, and fending off the growing threat that climate change presents to clean water access. As a legal resource center against Big Polluters and the public officials that do their bidding, the NMELC defends all of New Mexico in the struggle for environmental justice.

As a statewide organization, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center serves a wide range of communities fighting to protect their environment. Efforts include representing stakeholders in legal proceedings and at public hearings; working on legislation to defend air, land, and water against polluters; and engaging with supporters on changes to existing regulations for stronger environmental defense. The Law Center has spearheaded landmark industry changes in uranium mining clean-ups, exposure to medical waste, landfill locations, oil and gas ordinances, aquifer and river water protections, cleanup of Cold War-era radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Lab, greenhouse gas emissions, and highway expansions. The NMELC remains a proactive leader in regulatory battles over how regional and state entities will deal with such ongoing environmental health threats. Cases are publicized, tracked and then ultimately marked as closed after victories are won.

South Valley Stationary Air Pollution Source Density

Battles over air quality have included a challenge to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Joint Air Quality Control Board’s inadequate method of permitting a 6,000 gallon gasoline storage tank’s cumulative air quality impacts. Another case saw the EPA agree to investigate a Title VI civil rights complaint against the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County for the permitting of air polluting facilities in low-income neighborhoods of color. An ongoing land case challenges the Mount Taylor uranium mine being returned to active status in a test of how the state’s Mining Act is enforced, as contamination continues leaking into groundwater. The NMELC also challenged the Los Alamos National Lab and Department of Energy for missing multiple deadlines while accruing more than $300 million in fines under a 2005 cleanup order for Cold War-era contamination.

Water quality battles are a key sector of the Law Center’s work, with nine out of ten New Mexicans getting their drinking water from groundwater that’s threatened by questionable real estate developments and careless practices from the petrochemical, mining, and nuclear weapons industries. The NMELC has fought to prevent proposed changes to the state’s surface water and groundwater quality regulations from the New Mexico Environment Department, many of which would have weakened protections and/or and hindered public participation.

An ongoing Environmental Justice Series of events hosted by Law Center staff and community members helps keep conversations about environmental issues at the forefront of public attention. Topics have included uranium contamination in New Mexico, the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site, and action to combat the climate change crisis. The Law Center’s quarterly Green Fire Report newsletter keeps supporters up to date on current activities, along with action alert notifications concerning public hearings, legislative battles, opportunities to submit comments on changes to regulations, and petitions.

For more information:

Why won’t City Council address industrial air pollution? – Albuquerque Journal, May 2023

Joint motion dismisses permit for asphalt plant due to health concerns – The Daily Lobo, February 2023

East Mountain Citizens Win 14 Year Battle To Protect Water from Developers – The Paper, February 2023

Changing the Playing Field: Proposed legislation would dramatically change New Mexico’s principal oil and gas law – CAPITAL & MAIN, January 2023

Community Convinces Air Quality Board to Hold Public Hearing – The Paper, December 2022

Greg M. Schwartz

Greg M. Schwartz

Greg is an award-winning investigative reporter who specializes in covering environmental justice issues with a track record for shining a light on crooked science and regulatory capture. He has a Master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kent State University in his native region of Northeast Ohio, where he also served on the May 4th Task Force. He has spent most of his adult life in California, where he's also a freelance music journalist with a preference for socially conscious rock 'n' roll bands.

Contact

Virginia Necochea, Executive Director

Website

Social Media

Climate Impacts

Drought, Flooding, Heat, Wildfires

Environmental Justice Concerns

Air Pollution, Fracking/Oil and Gas Development/Pipelines, Groundwater Contamination, Hazardous/Toxic Sites, Incinerator/Dumping/Landfill, Mining, Nuclear Power Plants, PFAS/PFOS, Superfund Sites

Strategies

Community Organizing and Education, Legal/permit challenges to development, contamination, pollution, etc, Policy Reform, Renewable Energy

501c3 Tax Deductible

Yes

Accepting Donations

Yes