Environmental lawsuits bill draws criticism - Albuquerque Journal

Environmental lawsuits bill draws criticism

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A bill that would allow private citizens to file civil suits alleging violations of state environmental rules is headed for a committee vote this weekend – and has garnered opposition from the business community.

House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, amends the Oil and Gas Act and other state environmental laws to enable private citizens to file civil lawsuits against businesses and other entities that may be violating the terms of their permits. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the measure Saturday afternoon.

Ben Shelton, political and policy director for Conservation Voters New Mexico, said the bill would give people who have been harmed by environmental malpractice the ability to take direct legal action.

“In New Mexico, it’s really easy to see human impacts of pollution,” Shelton said. “So having something that allows people some legal recourse to address environmental harms in their community under all these state statutes would be a big leap forward.”

However, Rob Black, president and CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, said the measure would create an uncertain regulatory environment, which could deter companies from investing in the state.

“New Mexico is already not seen as a great place to do business,” Black said.

The bill would provide legal standing for individuals who have been harmed, economically or otherwise, by entities that are subject to or regulated by the Oil and Gas Act and four other environmental laws.

For example, Shelton said companies that dump more than their permitted levels of pollutants could be subject to a civil suit under the measure. That would give New Mexicans the ability to stop bad actors without relying on state agencies, he said.

Black said he’s concerned the bill creates an environment where companies, which are already regulated by state environmental laws, face a slew of lawsuits that stymie development. He said New Mexico routinely ranks toward the bottom of lists ranking state business climates, and said these lists help inform where businesses look to locate and expand operations.

Having a law that leaves developers subject to civil suits will discourage companies from moving to and growing in New Mexico, making it harder to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

“This legislative session should be all about, how do we come out of COVID and position ourselves to grow our economy and diversify,” Black said. “And this bill … is the exact opposite of that.”

Black added that the bill could negatively impact alternative energy development, including wind turbine manufacturing and transmission lines for renewable energy.

“It’s going to be collateral damage to every industry,” he said.

Shelton disagreed, noting that plaintiffs have to show that they’ve been harmed by the violations. Winning a suit could result in a temporary or permanent injunction, along with “reasonable costs” for attorney fees, rather than substantial monetary penalties, Shelton said.

“There’s no getting rich off of this,” Shelton said.

Home » News » New Mexico News » Environmental lawsuits bill draws criticism


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Cow milk can briefly substitute for baby formula
ABQnews Seeker
Pediatrician says it can be used ... Pediatrician says it can be used for babies older than 6 months
2
Dogs show their stuff on catwalk
ABQnews Seeker
Sunday's Mutt Strutt gives canines chance ... Sunday's Mutt Strutt gives canines chance to win prizes, get vaccines and microchips
3
Ronchetti trades barbs with rivals in TV debate
2022 election
GOP gubernatorial candidates discuss border, abortion, ... GOP gubernatorial candidates discuss border, abortion, Trump loyalty
4
Families of 39,500 NM students to get food credits
ABQnews Seeker
$2.3M in federal money to help ... $2.3M in federal money to help cover missed free meals
5
ABQ'S speed cameras go live Wednesday; here's the 411
ABQnews Seeker
No more warnings, $100 fines No more warnings, $100 fines
6
Scandinavia's leading airline adopts Albuquerque firm's software
ABQnews Seeker
Ultramain will deploy its 'electronic logbook' ... Ultramain will deploy its 'electronic logbook' on all Scandinavian Airlines System ai
7
APD: Day-drinking preceded man firing at police
ABQnews Seeker
Suspect charged with assault on peace ... Suspect charged with assault on peace officer
8
Governor meets with federal officials
ABQnews Seeker
Wildfires, wedding on the agenda while ... Wildfires, wedding on the agenda while in Washington, D.C
9
Ex-guard in Grants charged with rape
ABQnews Seeker
Suspect told police that he also ... Suspect told police that he also snuck in contraband for inmate, her cellmates