New Mexico Environment Department Reaches Settlement With Lovelace Biomedical Research Institute

NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney

NMED News:

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has reached a settlement agreement with Lovelace Biomedical Research Institute (LBRI) for alleged violations of New Mexico’s Radiation Protection Act dating back to 2017.

LBRI is in Albuquerque on property accessed through Kirtland Air Force Base. NMED alleged the facility failed to provide financial assurance sufficient to cover the cost of decommissioning radioactive materials at the facility.

In addition, NMED alleged LBRI failed to maintain critical radioactive material inventory records.

In April 2019, NMED issued a Notice of Violation to the facility and in October of 2020, NMED issued a administrative order requiring compliance along with a civil penalty for continued non-compliance.

The facility houses radioactive materials that could pose a threat to the public health and the environment if managed incorrectly or if LBRI stopped operating. Financial assurance ensures the company – not New Mexicans – will pay for the proper management, disposal and/or clean-up of these radioactive materials and the decommissioning of the facility. 

“Skirting financial assurance requirements with the expectation that New Mexicans will bear the cost of decommissioning or cleaning up radioactive materials is unconscionable,” NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said. “We continue to be tough on those who violate the law so we create a fair and level playing field for those businesses that play by the rules.”

As part of the settlement terms, LBRI must increase its financial assurance from $1.5 million to $3.6 million. LBRI also must be audited by a third party to determine if additional financial assurance is necessary. If that is the case, LBRI must secure the additional financial assurance within 30 days or face a $5,000 per day stipulated penalty.

Finally, LBRI must pay a civil penalty of $100,000, which is remitted by NMED to the state’s general fund. The general fund is the primary state fund from which the ongoing expenses of state government are paid. 

The settlement agreement is available here.