Small-Town Environmental Justice

This piece from Next American City looks at pollution in small town New Mexico and how court rulings have made it hard for a local organization -- and those in other communities -- to fight environmental battles.

Local activists had been fighting a local chemical company which they say had been polluting the air and the water.

"In the last several years, the New Mexico Environment Department has issued numerous violations against Helena's Mesquite facility, with penalties nearing $500,000. Those violations include operating without an air quality permit and other air quality violations, failure to report a fertilizer spill within 24 hours, and failure to provide an abatement plan within the Department's allotted 30 days for contaminative substances, such as chloride, found in the groundwater below the facility.

Mesquite is a working-class, 95-percent-Hispanic community with nearly half its residents living below the poverty line. Only 7.5 percent hold a bachelor's degree or higher. Arturo Uribe is one of those people. An El Paso native who has been living with his family in Mesquite since 2002, Uribe has roots in the town. His mother was born in the house where he now lives, a home built by his grandfather. And he did not think Helena was good for Mesquite; he wanted them to relocate.

Six years ago, Uribe and a few other residents began to publicly voice concerns about Helena Chemical Company."

Full Story: From a Tiny Town, A Cautionary Tale for Environmental Advocates


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