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Disturbing the Pieces

Is New Mexico doing all it can to protect its ancient history?

February 25, 2009, 12:00 am

That wouldn’t be sufficient oversight, under a bill proposed by state Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Bernalillo. If passed, the New Mexico Consolidated Environmental Review Act would ensure that every proposed project, regardless of jurisdiction issues, be subject to environmental and archaeological reviews.

HB 520 would require companies proposing projects on state lands—or using state funding—to complete environmental studies similar to those conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The idea for the bill came after a company planned to build a cement plant across from an elementary school in Albuquerque’s South Valley. There were no laws that required the environmental impacts of the project be evaluated—despite its proximity to the school and potential for pollution—because it was not on federal land or being built with federal funds.

“Any number of [projects] have come up in recent years that have focused our attention on the fact that there is really no requirement whatsoever for state or local governments or state agencies to look at environmental impacts when evaluating certain projects,” she says. “[The Consolidated Environmental Review Act] would put something like this in place.”

Such a law also would mean that archaeological resources overseen by all state agencies would receive the same care they do on federal lands, according to Advocates for the West’s Ruscavage-Barz. “I think it’s a good opportunity to address some of the shortcomings in the state cultural property acts,” she says. “And this would be an opportunity to try to have some sort of requirement for survey on state trust lands, for example, because you would have to be looking for potentially eligible properties as well as making sure there are no listed properties within your project area.”

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