New Mexico’s Air Pollution Lawsuit: A Historic Battle for Constitutional Rights

Petroleum Industry Stakeholders and Businesses Urge Inclusion in Constitutional Pollution Lawsuit

A historic constitutional lawsuit alleging that the state of New Mexico is not doing enough to address air pollution will have its first major hearing on Friday. Several groups are petitioning the court to allow them to intervene in the case. The plaintiffs will argue before the First Judicial District Court against motions from the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce.

The lawsuit, filed in May, involves various groups such as Indigenous communities and environmentalists who claim that the legislature, governor, and state agencies are violating the pollution control clause of the New Mexico Constitution. This clause, passed by voters in 1971, requires the state to prevent the “despoilment” of New Mexico’s natural resources for the benefit of its people.

The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce have filed motions stating that the lawsuit would impact their business interests. However, Gail Evans, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, clarified that this lawsuit is not directed at private oil and gas operators. Evans argues that only states can violate constitutional rights, not private actors.

New Mexico has filed a motion to dismiss this lawsuit as it is currently experiencing historic levels of oil production. Despite this, there is a separate effort by environmentalists to seek voter approval to modify the state constitution for citizens to have a “green amendment” guaranteeing a clean and healthy environment. The hearing for this lawsuit will begin on Friday March 29 at 2pm MST and will be accessible via Google Meet.

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