EPA Reaches Informal Resolution of 14-Year-Old Civil Rights Complaint Against NMED

Sample Public Comment Available Here to Ask for Extension of Time Following the Translation of Vital Documents into Spanish

On January 19th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Mexico Environment Department signed an informal agreement resolving a civil rights complaint that was originally filed 14 years ago.  https://www.epa.gov/ocr/external-civil-rights-compliance-office-new-developments  When the Environment Department issued the 2002 hazardous waste permit for Triassic Park, a dump east of Roswell, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (CARD), the Water Information Network, Conservative Use of Resources and the Environment (CURE), and two individuals filed the complaint with the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights.  It alleged violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act based on race and national origin, and that in permitting Triassic Park the Environment Department “failed to require or perform a scientific investigation into possible disparate impacts; failed to ensure that limited-English proficient Spanish speaking residents were provided a meaningful opportunity for effective public participation in the permitting process; and has a statewide pattern and practice of similar discriminatory permitting and lack of access for limited-English proficient residents to the public participation and permitting process.” http://sacredtrustnm.org/epa-nmed-come-to-settlement-agreement/

Because the Department receives EPA funding, it is subject to anti-discrimination laws and regulations.

Deborah Reade, CARD’s longtime Research Director and one of the authors of the complaint, described the permitting process, stating, “People who would be directly affected by a hazardous waste dump simply weren’t being involved in the discussion of whether Triassic Park should or should not be built.”

Following the 2002 public hearing, the Department issued a ten-year permit for the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste to Gandy-Marley, Inc.  https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/tpperm.html  The 480-acre facility was never built.

In 2011, Gandy-Marley submitted the first of several permit renewal applications and NMED issued a draft permit in June of 2016.  Extended several times, the public comment period ended on January 20th, the day following the signing of the agreement requiring the Department to improve its work with impacted communities.  Such work includes creating a public participation policy; employee training in non-discrimination throughout all of the Department’s programs; implementation of written procedures to provide meaningful access to limited-English proficient individuals; and translation of vital documents to make them accessible to all affected communities. Despite timely requests for an extension of time to submit public comments following the translation of vital documents into Spanish, the Department has yet to agree to reopen the public comment period.  TO SUBMIT A REQUEST FOR AN EXTENSION OF TIME, PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE SAMPLE PUBLIC COMMENT LETTER HERE. f Triassic Park comment 1-26-17

Noel Marquez, of Communities for Environmental Justice, said, “At a minimum, we would like to see a successful effort by [the Department] to publicly inform our communities about the nature of the Triassic Park Dump, to reach all communities in a 60-mile radius of Triassic Park, in English and Spanish.”

CCNS reached out to both EPA and NMED for a comment, but did not receive anything for inclusion in this Update.

To learn more about the permitting history and the communities’ response, please search for Triassic Park on our website at http://www.nuclearactive.org


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