MISSION: Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations

Recommendations on Environmental Justice -
New Mexicans Respond

Consultants examined the matrices of recommendations from all four listening sessions in Acoma, Albuquerque, Deming, and Las Vegas, New Mexico. Based upon this examination, they were able to discern seven major areas of concern – and recommendations to address those concerns—that require a more systemic response from the NMED. However, not all recommendations fit into these broad categories. Some were discrete recommendations that were generally locale specific. The consultants encouraged the NMED to forward the recommendations to the Governor’s Office to insure that statewide consensus is brought to the Governor’s attention and that more discrete recommendations can be forwarded to the appropriate department through the Governor.

The seven major categories of concerns and recommendations can be described as: (1) an interagency mechanism to address environmental justice; (2) permitting reform; (3) enforcement enhancement; (4) training programs; (5) procedural issues (such as information disclosure, public participation and transparency); (6) data collection; and (7) issues specific to Native Americans and tribal governments. These are detailed below.

1. Interagency Mechanism to Address Environmental Justice Issues
• Address multi-jurisdictional issues by collaborative policy development
• Include federal agencies, e.g., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, Dept. of Agriculture (to address farmworker issues), Dept of Transportation, etc.
• Include local agencies, e.g., counties, municipalities, and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
• Include a Border EJ commission -collaboration to address border issues (e.g., infrastructure problems – colonias)
• Include the NM state engineer - to conserve water resources, conserve traditional uses; insure water quality
• Include tribal governments- consultation and collaboration with tribes as government to government entities
• Include representatives of EJ communities
• Create a governor’s executive office of environmental justice and/or an environmental justice executive order

2. Permitting Reform
Substantive Reform

• Consider demographics, social impacts, cumulative impacts, secondary impacts, nuisance impacts (e.g., noise, odor), impacts to cultural and traditional uses of the impacted area
• Consider impacts to vulnerable populations, such the ill, children and the elderly
• Consider known future land uses
• Consider proper emergency response, such as capacity of fire department.
• Consider water quantity and quality impacts of the facility
• Adopt precautionary principle and consider pollution prevention and toxic reduction strategies
• Hearing officers should not have any conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest
• No permits should be granted without a demonstrated capacity to monitor and enforce the permit by NMED.
• Use discretion to require additional mitigation efforts for permits in impacted communities
• Comply with the U.S. executive order on environmental justice when using authority delegated under federal law.
• Comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
• Require comprehensive demonstration that burden of proof is met and do not rely on permit applicant’s unsupported assertions.
• Deny permits that result in or exacerbate disparate impacts

Procedural Reform
• Provide funding for independent technical review by communities
• Provide enhanced notice and outreach to affected communities, e.g., send permit application and information to community-based organizations, local churches and schools, statewide EJ groups and environmental groups, acequia associations, tribes and pueblos
• Make information available at regional offices.
• Provide uniform notice
• Provide language translation into appropriate languages.
• Define technical terms in plain English
• More convenient date/time of hearings
• Make all information regarding a potential permit (including pre-application information) available to the public by posting on the internet
• Avoid negotiations with permit applicants when members of the public and affected communities are not notified, involved and present.

(l to r) Paula Garcia, NM Acequia Assoc., William Gonzales, San Augustine Land Grants and Community Acequia Assoc., Antonio Medina, Associacion de Las Acequias del Valle de Mora and Acequia del Encinal, and Patricio Garcia, member, Interstate Stream Comm. and Rio Arriba Cty. Planner, discuss water, land and cultural issues at the Las Vegas Listening Session - photo courtesy of Cynthia Gomez.

3. Enhancement
• Increase inspections, do not rely on self-reporting of regulated community
• Prepare and distribute manual for citizens on reporting violations, and obtaining information on releases
• Encourage stronger enforcement at LANL and federal facilities.
• Have stronger oversight over private consultants
• Require more efficient means of collecting solid waste
• Penalties for violations should go to community environmental projects
• Support community based cleanups
• Allocate funds to repair damaged water supplies
• Post violations on the internet
• Develop stricter standards.

4. Training programs
• Encourage the development of training programs to address workplace risks
• Train communities in regulatory processes, particularly permit proceedings, compliance monitoring, and how to report environmental problems.
• Provide summary of key laws in plain English/Spanish.
• Set up an office of advocacy or a special position to address environmental justice issues.
• Train NMED staff in environmental justice, including cultural competency
• Send all NMED staff on environmental justice tours that are conducted by affected communities
• Conduct workgroup sessions that include community members and NMED senior staff
• Sustain regular dialogue with community outside formal processes
• Educate communities about illegal dumping

5. Information Disclosure/Public Participation/Transparency
• Provide information on hazardous material transportation, facility releases and other exposures and risks to impacted communities.
• Provide information in a culturally appropriate manner
• Educate the public in high risk areas about potential health risks and safe practices
• Share information about potential health risks to physicians
• Be clear about what are “significant” comments that will be included in the record – Provide better guidance to the public
• Define environmental justice
• Include environmental justice considerations in standard setting, enforcement and cleanup as well as permitting
• Refrain from using water rights to secure loans to mutual and domestic water user associations, fully disclose any potential for such transactions to result in loss of water rights.
• Take a strong position against threats/intimidation against community residents that speak out at public hearings
• Meet with community-based groups often, consistently
• All environmental statutes should have the same public participation, public notice and public comment sections contained in the Solid Waste Act
• Maintain de Novo hearings in all statutes so that appeals may show that new information can be presented

6. Data Collection
• Obtain baseline information, e.g., airborne monitoring, for impacted communities
• Identify existing vulnerable communities and vulnerable populations
• Support community based participatory health research and community health and awareness surveys
• Invest in epidemiological capacity, coordinate dissemination of health data among agencies.
• Develop analysis using social science, economic and cultural experts
• Conduct a comprehensive health study regarding the effects of uranium mining
• Establish farm worker environmental exposure assessment program

7. Tribal
• Support protection of sacred sites, especially the petroglyphs, including supporting an executive order on sacred sites
• Assist tribes to develop their own environmental regulatory programs, fund technical support services
• Demonstrate more deference to sovereignty issues, e.g., government to government consultation and informed consent from tribes
• Do not release tribal information/data without prior tribal approval
• Fund community-based solutions on tribal land, particularly illegal dumping
• Obtain baseline information, e.g., airborne monitoring
• Address specific environmental issues caused by open pit mining, power, oil, gas and coal plants that affect tribal lands.

Excerpted from “Final Report: A Report on Environmental Justice in New Mexico," Sponsored by the New Mexico Environment Department. Prepared by the Alliance for Transportation Institute (ATRI), November 1, 2004

Community Partners
and Resources

Table of Contents

“We are a part of everything that is beneath us, above us, and around us. Our past is our present, our present is our future, and our future is seven generations past and present.”
– Traditional Teaching of the Haudenosaunee Indians (Iroquois)

“The story of my people and the story of this place are one single story. No [one] can think of us without also thinking of this place. We are always joined together.”
– Taos Elder referring to Taos Blue Lake

Donate Now Through Network for Good

All donations are tax-deductible.
Thank you.

SRIC is part of the Stop Forever WIPP Coalition.
The nuclear waste dump is permitted to operate until 2024, but the federal government want to expand the amount and types of waste allowed with NO end date.
We need your help to protect New Mexico!

Donate through Smith's Rewards Program

Southwest Research and Information Center
105 Stanford SE
PO Box 4524
Albuquerque, NM 87196
fax: 505/262-1864

Shop at
and Support
Southwest Research and
Information Center