New Mexico Environmental Law Center

aka NMELC   |   Santa Fe, NM   |  www.nmelc.org

Mission

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center's mission is to protect New Mexico's communities and their air, land, and water in the fight for environmental justice. The Law Center is New Mexico’s only nonprofit law firm to specialize in environmental justice casework – and one of only a few such firms nationwide. For over 30 years, our attorneys have represented clients in over 300 cases across New Mexico – and have tackled some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Chevron Mining, Freeport McMoRan, Intel, General Atomics, and ConAgra.

Ruling year info

1988

Executive Director

Dr. Dr. Virginia Necochea

Main address

1405 Luisa Street Suite #5

Santa Fe, NM 87505 USA

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EIN

85-0360664

NTEE code info

Management & Technical Assistance (C02)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (C01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Racial, economic, and environmental justice are inextricably linked – and given these intersections, New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s clients are predominantly communities of color, members of Tribes and Pueblos, and people with low incomes. Our work is predicated upon leveraging our legal advocacy and representation to amplify our clients’ objectives – of shaping thriving communities and mitigating the cumulative effects that poverty, pollution, racism, and lax regulatory oversight can have at the local level. The outcomes we work to achieve for our clients are not “Band-Aid” fixes; rather, they strike at the heart of inequity: racist policies and processes. By working to shape and enact county- and state-level policies to redress systemic inequities related to air quality regulation, water quantity and quality, and land viability, we aim to protect communities of color, members of Tribes and Pueblos, and low-income communities from experiencing disproportionate health burdens.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Native American Community Representation

We provide free and low-cost legal representation to tribal governments and indigenous groups across the state fighting contamination of their air, land, and water by pollutant-generating industries. Moreover, we also work in collaboration with our clients to prevent and mitigate environmental impacts to culturally-significant sites and naturally-sensitive habitats. Representative casework includes our client-driven efforts to establish case-driven precedents ensuring that the uranium industry is unable to regain a foothold in New Mexico’s communities; that existing uranium operations are regulated to prevent contamination of area resources; and that shuttered uranium sites are reclaimed expeditiously. We are committed to engaging in years-long efforts on behalf of our clients to ensure the uranium industry is held accountable for the devastating toll that current and past uranium operations have taken on members of Tribes, Pueblos, and local communities – as well as their air, land, and water.

Population(s) Served
Indigenous peoples

Racial, economic, and environmental justice are inextricably linked – and given these intersections, New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s clients are predominantly communities of color, members of Tribes and Pueblos, and people with low incomes. Our statewide work is predicated upon leveraging our legal advocacy and representation to amplify our clients’ objectives – of shaping thriving communities and mitigating the cumulative effects that poverty, pollution, racism, and lax regulatory oversight can have at the local level.

We provide free and low-cost legal representation and advocacy to our clients. Our clients drive our work, and we measure our success based on whether – and to what extent – we achieve their environmental protection objectives, including precedent-setting policies or regulatory processes. Moreover, while we use our legal advocacy and representation to help our clients navigate the legal process, our associated public education and outreach empower community members by equipping them with the tools they need to effectively advocate for their environmentally-focused objectives. As such, we seek to center our clients – and the communities they represent – so that they can continue acting as grassroots change-agents, to build power and momentum in effecting systemic environmental policy change.

The outcomes we work to achieve for our clients are not “Band-Aid” fixes; rather, they strike at the heart of inequity: racist policies and processes. By working to shape and enact county- and state-level policies to redress systemic inequities related to air quality regulation, water quantity and quality, and land viability, we aim to protect communities of color, members of Tribes and Pueblos, and low-income communities from experiencing disproportionate health burdens resulting from protracted exposure to toxic pollutants and hazardous waste.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

New Mexico Environmental Law Center envisions a state where New Mexico's communities can advocate effectively to protect their air, land, and water from environmental degradation, pollutant-generating industries, and the adverse, human-informed drivers of climate change. More specifically, our work centers clients and communities who have been historically denied or intentionally obstructed from participating in environmentally-focused regulatory processes and policy development.

Typically, the Law Center's attorneys handle two types of cases: 1) community response, where we represent residents whose communities are dealing with existing environmental degradation or facing the threat of new environmental harm; and 2) policy advocacy, where we work on county-level, state-level, or federal environmentally-focused regulations and policies that have implications for the health and wellbeing of New Mexico's communities.

Both case types have the potential to impact how decisions are made in New Mexico: we estimate that half of our cases have the potential to set beneficial state-level precedents with potential nationwide implications.

All of our work builds power within the affected communities and raises public awareness of inequitable regulations and policies that affect air, land, and water quality. In the process, we will continue empowering an informed contingent of self-advocates to promote, incubate, and shape policies that will enrich the health and wellbeing of their neighbors and allow their communities to thrive well into the future.

More specifically, we:

>provide legal representation to communities that have been historically left out of processes regarding environmental regulatory or policy reform - and whose residents often bear disproportionate, deleterious health outcomes as a result;

>work with clients to ensure that they understand how current environmental issues impact their communities; how prospective policy proposals' implications could affect their communities' health and wellbeing and culturally-sensitive resources; and the ramifications of specific aspects of affiliated legal proceedings;

>equip our clients with the tools they need to effectively advocate for their environmentally-focused objectives, even after our case-related legal representation and advocacy conclude; and

>forge collaborative relationships with grassroots leaders, neighborhood associations, and community members to undergird and amplify our legal advocacy, and collectively work to enforce key environmental protection statutes and regulations that we helped to draft and enact; and

>empower informed contingents of self-advocates to promote, incubate, and shape policies that will enrich the health and wellbeing of their neighbors and allow their communities to thrive well into the future.

Case goals are client-developed and directed.

As New Mexico's only nonprofit law firm to specialize in environmental justice casework - and one of only a few such firms nationwide - our highly dedicated legal team of four staff attorneys, as well as the Executive Director, possess expertise in: solid waste, hard-rock mining, uranium mining, air quality, urban sprawl, water quality and quantity, dairies, oil and gas extraction, and climate change.

Our attorneys are fully versed in local, tribal, state, and federal environmental laws that affect New Mexico communities. Through our work, we have helped craft and successfully advocate for state-level laws and rules, including the New Mexico Solid Waste Act and Regulations, the New Mexico Mining Act, the Dairy Rule, and a ban on uranium mining in the Navajo Nation. In addition, our attorneys have participated in winning landmark legal victories, including cases that require the State to take public input into account when making decisions about solid waste facilities and hard-rock mines. For over 30 years, our attorneys have represented clients in over 300 cases across New Mexico – and have tackled some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Chevron Mining, Freeport McMoRan, Intel, General Atomics, and ConAgra.

Our public education and outreach complement our legal advocacy work to effect systemic, statewide environmental policy change – to ensure New Mexico’s communities have clean air, water, and land now and into the future.

Since 1987, the Law Center has helped write laws and policies that have helped preserve New Mexico's vital natural and cultural resources, while proactively shaping state policies and regulations. Our work has resulted in no incinerators being sited in communities in the past 24 years; no new uranium mining taking place in New Mexico since the late 1980s; and no new solid waste facilities being sited in low-income communities - which already shoulder a heavy burden of polluting facilities. Environmental injustice remains a significant problem in New Mexico, however. While we are lucky to be such a diverse state, New Mexico is perennially poor, with high unemployment and entrenched extractive industries that pollute air, water, and land. Low-income communities, Tribes and Pueblos, and communities of color continue to be overburdened with our state's contamination, and are still routinely omitted from conversations with decision-makers.

NMELC will continue to work with affected communities to reduce pollution loads, protect natural and cultural resources, and hold those in the public sector accountable to their constituents. An overview of our current clients’ objectives per casework area are below:

• Air quality-related casework objectives: establish a county ordinance requiring regulators to consider cumulative impacts of pollutant-emitting facilities on communities when reviewing permit applications, and establish a statewide rule requiring permit applicants to determine how resultant pollution will affect communities; and advocate for the closure of one hazardous waste burning location, and challenge the permitting of a new hazardous waste burning location

• Water-related casework objectives: work to strengthen the state’s surface water and groundwater quality regulations, including provisions for public notice and effective public participation; continue to prevent the most highly contested water grab in New Mexico history, involving 17 billion gallons of publicly owned water; enforce stringent mitigation and abatement of an underground fuel spill plume – larger than the Valdez oil spill – that threatens to contaminate drinking water wells; challenge pollutant-generating facilities’ permits for discharging radioactive liquid waste; and contest mining operators’ rights in accessing and discharging pollutants into ground and surface water

• Land-related casework objectives: prevent new uranium mines from opening, and shuttered mines from “re-activating”; advocate for the cleanup and reclamation of uranium sites; empower and inform community change-agents to respond to uranium threats; and ensure toxic contamination resulting from spills or pollutant-generating operations are mitigated expeditiously per a stringent schedule or court order

Our years-long efforts center community members’ life experiences and ensure residents’ voices not only are heard, but help effect systemic policy change.

Financials

New Mexico Environmental Law Center
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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New Mexico Environmental Law Center

Board of directors
as of 05/09/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Ms Donna House

Ohkay Owingeh, NM


Board co-chair

Mr. Ramon Padilla

Las Cruces

Donna House

Ohkay Owingeh

Susanne Hoffman-Dooley

Santa Fe

Renee Ingold

Fallbrook, CA

Harry Browne

Silver City

Johana Bencomo

Las Cruces

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/16/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data