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Nuclear is part of the dirty energy problem

By April 11, 2016January 20th, 2023Climate & Energy, Tribal

Add your voice to the outcry from western New Mexicans about the daily impacts uranium mining has on their health. If we speak up together, we can make it impossible for the Martinez administration to ignore us: nuclear energy doesn’t belong in any energy plans for New Mexico.>>

Our nation’s leaders called for landmark action nationwide to reduce carbon pollution through the Clean Power Plan. It’s clear that unified action is sorely needed to curb the worst impacts of climate change – impacts already felt by New Mexicans like you every day.

However, one of the solutions proposed in the plan is extremely problematic for our state: the plan identifies nuclear energy as one of four carbon-neutral energy platforms that it encourages states to adopt.

Communities like mine, Gallup and Church Rock, know all too well that the fuel life cycle of nuclear energy is far from clean. That’s because northwestern New Mexico was a key corner of uranium extraction and production from the 1940s until the 1980s, and is home to over 259 uranium mines. Shockingly, an astounding 137 of those mines have no record of clean up. As a result, northwestern New Mexico families are plagued with daily exposure to radioactive tailings piles, mining waste and equipment left behind after the mining boom turned bust.

We cannot allow this travesty to be repeated. Call on Gov. Martinez and her administration to ensure that the communities most impacted by dirty energy sources like nuclear have a pivotal role in designing New Mexico’s state energy plan.>>

These impacts are keenly felt by the indigenous communities of the Southwest. We have witnessed culture, spirituality, health, communities, and land be desecrated and sacrificed in the name of extractive industry — an industry that many in our communities do not want, as demonstrated by a ban on uranium mining passed by the Navajo Nation in 2005.

Last year, Governor Martinez’s administration unveiled its vision for New Mexico’s energy future – dubbed the “state energy plan.” The plan directs decision-making bodies to adopt a slate of dirty energy policies, from exporting coal to more natural gas fracking. The plan also calls for expanding New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard after 2020 to include nuclear energy as a solution to carbon pollution.

Despite a legacy of negative impacts to our communities, policies like the Clean Power Plan and Martinez’s energy plan call for decision-makers to again sacrifice people for the sake of industry by pushing for investment in nuclear energy. Furthermore, the voices at the table shaping those plans do not include the communities that have been living with the impacts of poor energy policy. As a result, those that are at the table aren’t talking about the horrific legacy of uranium mining, and how instead we should be creating a different vision for New Mexico’s future – one that doesn’t choose industry over people.

This is a defining moment for all of us. We can break the cycle of devastation and harm that one-sided policies have created in our communities by choosing another road. Together, we must push the state to adopt a vision for our energy future that is developed by the people. If our leaders truly care about creating a healthier New Mexico for all, they need to demonstrate their commitment to change by working with communities to develop solutions. And the first step is to listen.

Thank you for raising your voice in solidarity with our neighbors so that we can come together and create a new vision for New Mexico – one that does not repeat environmental injustices.>>

Talia Boyd
CVNMEF Western NM Organizer