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Press Release: Citizen Action Sues NMED
Failure to Respond to Public Comments

N   E   W   S       R   E   L  E  A  S  E
Date: September 1, 2005 Contact: Susan Dayton, Director
Citizen Action New Mexico: (505) 262-1862
Public Interest Group Files Second Lawsuit
Against New Mexico Environment Department
Citizen Action, an Albuquerque-based public interest group, today filed a second lawsuit in the New Mexico Court of Appeals against the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) charging that the state violated a regulatory rule by failing to provide responses to comments submitted by members of the public who testified at the public hearing for the Mixed Waste Landfill last December. The landfill, a Cold War legacy waste dump containing radioactive and hazardous waste, is situated on the East Mesa at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A total of 35 individual citizens and representatives from various organizations testified at the hearing. Of the 36 who testified, the NMED provided responses to comments from only 4 individuals. The New Mexico Hazardous Waste Management regulations specifically require the state to provide responses to all comments received from members of the public during a public hearing.

Susan Dayton, Director for Citizen Action New Mexico, described the state's negligence as a disservice to citizens who took the time and energy to attend the hearing and have their opinions recorded on what should be done with the waste buried at the dump. "Furthermore, we know that the NMED did not provide responses to all members of the public who sent written comments to the NMED by mail."

Mark Rudd, a South Valley resident and homeowner for 26-years, was among the 31 who did not receive a response from the state. "This clearly shows the state's incredible lack of respect and negligence towards the residents of the South Valley who have to live downwind from this [landfill]."

Cecilia Chavez, an Albuquerque resident who delivered a lengthy testimony in Spanish, said of the state's failure to respond to her comments, "This is totally disrespectful. They put the hearing on and then they don't even listen to us. That we were there and testified makes it seem like a charade. They need to listen to the people who will have to live around the dump."

Dayton echoed their sentiments. "This is a statewide pattern of discrimination and a failure on behalf of the state to fully acknowledge the importance of public participation in the permitting process."

Other organizations that did not receive a response from the NMED included representatives from the New Mexico Public Health Association; the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation; Mountain View Neighborhood Association; the Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter; Native Forest Network; Gray Panthers, Albuquerque Chapter; Albuquerque Unitarian and Universalist Fellowship; Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety; Veterans for Peace; Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice; Stop the War Machine; Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Ecological Ministry, Order of St. Francis; and People, Not Profit.

Citizen Action is requesting the new lawsuit be consolidated with a previous lawsuit filed last month against the state that charges the NMED with violating federal law by issuing a permit to Sandia National Labs that will allow the lab to leave transuranic (TRU) waste in shallow burial at the site.

For more information contact Citizen Action New Mexico: (505) 262-1862 or visit the Citizen Action website at www.radfreenm.org.