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

Educating Legislators in New Mexico and Beyond

Many public policy issues important to communities have – or should have – legislative aspects. Laws need to be made or revised to better reflect community interests and concerns. This issue of Voices from the Earth covers a gamut of issues and geographically diverse areas where legislative action was wanted and opposed by communities.

In New Mexico, the Legislature met from January 15 to February 14, and some legislators and uranium companies wanted new laws that would facilitate new uranium mining, while communities continued their efforts to educate the legislators about Environmental Justice issues. On pages 2 and 3, Southwest Research and Information Center’s (SRIC) Sofia Martinez discusses highlights and low lights of the 2008 New Mexico State Legislative Session – from celebrating the Third Annual Environmental Justice Awareness Day, to some of her work at the legislature on key bills important to our communities. From phone calls, e-mails, and being a presence at the Legislature, SRIC and others kept some bad uranium bills from passing. And after the session, community members, Tribal officials and members, and others successfully presented Governor Richardson with strong reasons to veto the one bad uranium bill that the Legislature passed. And he did veto that bill.

In 2006 and 2007, the New Mexico Legislature considered legislation that would give millions of dollars in tax breaks to the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired powerplant on the Navajo Reservation. No such legislation was considered this year, perhaps in part because Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Diné CARE) presented a report at the Environmental Justice Day at the Legislature: "Energy and Economic Alternatives to the Desert Rock Energy Project" that documented how renewable energy projects are preferable to Desert Rock. A summary of the report is on page 4.

Congress is also considering federal legislation of concern to communities in New Mexico and many other states with hardrock mining. New Mexicans are joining the campaign to update the 1872 Mining Law, which was originally passed to promote mining and development in the West. Read some of the comments of Native Americans from a January press conference about this issue on page 5.

Congress this year and next, and in future years also will have to decide what to do about the Bush administration plans for Nuclear Weapons Forever, which the Department of Energy (DOE) calls “Complex Transformation.” Thousands of community people have opposed that “Bombplex” and are again doing so in New Mexico and other states. On pages 6-7, SRIC’s Don Hancock describes DOE’s plans for the future expansion of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and what some affected communities are saying.

And there are also two articles not so directly related to communities and legislators. In late 2007, SRIC hosted a contingent of students from Colorado College on a tour of uranium communities in northwestern New Mexico. One student, Rohini Banskota, also visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory area and wrote an Op Ed about the Lab and its relationship to nearby communities. We’re please to present this article on page 8.

And last, there’s an article by SRIC Research Director Paul Robinson regarding his latest trip to Kamchatka in Russia and mining reclamation issues with regional communities there.

The alliances we’ve made in New Mexico, across the country, and around the world, are keeping us busy! We will continue to strive to keep you informed of the latest developments in future issues of Voices from the Earth.

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"Well, what's a little radioactivity alongside the riches to be made, the jobs to be offered, in a resurgent uranium market? State Senator David Ulibarri, who's also Cibola County manager, figures that, what with soaring uranium prices, a $50 billion industry is just waiting to open between Grants and the Navajo Reservation whose leaders, we've noted, have the good sense to say not on our land."
— Editorial:
"Governer, be wary of 'U-cleanup' bill"
The Santa Fe New Mexican,
March 1, 2008

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