New Mexico Court Of Appeals Upholds Need For Public Hearing For LANL Discharge Permit

New Mexico Environmental Law Center News:
SANTA FE — The New Mexico Court of Appeals sent a rebuke to the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) regarding its decision to uphold the NMED’s denial of a public hearing requested by Communities for Clean Water (CCW) as part of a groundwater discharge permit process for the Department of Energy/Los Alamos National Security (DOE/LANS).
Communities for Clean Water, represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, is a coalition of six organizations:
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety;
  • Amigos Bravos;
  • Honor Our Pueblo Existence;
  • New Mexico Acequia Association;
  • Partnership for Earth Spirituality; and
  • Tewa Women United.
“We’re pleased that the Court so strongly supported the critical role that public hearings play in forcing agencies and regulated entities to defend their actions and in creating a record that can be used to appeal a faulty permit decision,” Law Center Executive Director Douglas Meiklejohn said.
Amigos Bravos Projects Director Rachel Conn said. “The ruling is a great victory for clean water and the people of New Mexico. The court has ensured that the public’s concerns must be heard before discharges of pollution into our states waters are authorized.”
The Court faulted the WQCC for acting “arbitrarily and capriciously” in deciding that CCW’s request did not represent “a substantial public interest”. In fact, the Court stressed that CCW had repeatedly laid out its case for a public hearing and both DOE/LANS and the NMED had indicated how important the permit application was.
Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said, “This is an important decision about the public’s right to a hearing on a ground water discharge permit. We look forward to presenting our concerns about the land application of up to 350,000 gallons of ‘treated’ chromium water on the floodplains of Mortandad Canyon, requirements for soil sampling, and whether the annual submittal of workplans should be considered permit modification requests at a public hearing.”
“As a Native woman trying to make sense of these procedures, the time and resources it takes can be overwhelming,” said Kathy Sanchez, Founder and Program Manager for Environmental Health and Justice at Tewa Women United. “I’m delighted that the Court of Appeals sees the need for local communities that are highly impacted by toxic pollutants to have an opportunity to present their local expertise. We’ve waited a long time to have a hearing that can hold the Lab and the NMED accountable.”
The WQCC should now acknowledge its error and direct NMED to move forward with a public hearing on the permit.