Publication Date



47 p. ; This student paper has been awarded the 2008 Helen S. Carter Prize.


On July 18, 2005, the New Mexico Supreme Court handed down a groundbreaking decision in Colonias Development Council v. Rhino Environmental Services, Inc., requiring the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to take environmental justice criteria into consideration during solid waste facility permitting decisions. When the New Mexico Supreme Court overruled the agency and required it to consider the social impact and regional proliferation of waste sites in its Solid Waste Act permitting decisions, it signaled a substantial shift in the interpretation of New Mexico environmental law. In the aftermath of Rhino, the agency revised its Solid Waste Act regulations to require additional public notice and the completion of a Community Impact Analysis for waste sites proposed within a four-mile radius of a vulnerable community. Under the courts reasoning, similar reforms could be required for permitting under other state environmental laws, including New Mexico's Air Quality Control Act, Hazardous Waste Act, and Water Quality Act. The effectiveness of the new regulations is limited by their narrow demographic and geographic definition of a vulnerable community and their broad exception for areas zoned for industrial use. In addition, the Community Impact Analysis falls short of a comprehensive analysis of the environmental justice impacts of a solid waste facility. Ultimately, although both the Rhino decision and the revised regulations move New Mexico closer to achieving environmental justice, they are only the first steps on the long and difficult journey toward that goal.'


University of New Mexico School of Law

Document Type

Student Paper



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