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Conservation groups oppose confirmation of Ryan Flynn for Environment Department secretary

By February 17, 2014November 29th, 2022Press Releases

On Tuesday, the state Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to hear Gov. Susana Martinez’s nomination of Ryan Flynn as Environment Department secretary. Amigos Bravos, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Environment New Mexico and Conservation Voters New Mexico oppose this nomination.
“The future of New Mexico, including its economy, is dependent on policies that protect its environment,” said Brian Shields, Amigos Bravos executive director. “The Secretary of the Environment Department has the primary responsibility of protecting the health of people and the environment above and beyond any other interests. Mr. Flynn has shown he cannot be trusted with this important responsibility.”
“Instead of protecting New Mexico families’ water, air and health, Mr. Flynn has allowed the industries he is entrusted to regulate to write their own rules,” said Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter director. “He has also contributed to the dismantling of the department, which has lost critical technical expertise.”

  • Flynn rejected the recommendations of an advisory committee (including the department’s own technical staff and other experts) for the rule meant to protect the state’s groundwater from copper-mining pollution, substituting language written by Freeport McMoRan, a copper giant that owns three copper mines in Southwest New Mexico. That language allows mining companies to pollute the state’s groundwater above health-based standards without obtaining a variance, in violation of the Water Quality Act.
  •  A public-information request showed that the 200-page Statement of Reasons submitted by the Environment Department for adopting the Copper Mine Rule was taken entirely from Freeport McMoRan documents and prepared by Modrall Sperling, where Flynn was as an associate attorney before he became the Environment Department’s top lawyer.
  •  Flynn is charged with enforcing cleanup of the Kirtland Air Force Base fuel spill but is also serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves as an assistant judge advocate. This is a conflict of interest, as the Air Force is responsible for cleaning up the spill.
  •  The administration gave Los Alamos National Laboratory a pass to continue to contaminate under its cleanup order by giving LANL blank extensions on its deadline. Flynn agreed to a “framework agreement” that is outside the legally binding Consent Order to clean up transuranic waste by 2015.
  •  While Flynn has been general counsel and secretary-designate, a once-effective Environment Department has been dismantled. Flynn and his predecessor have transferred knowledgeable managers and supervisors — respected by both industry and conservationists — to programs well outside their areas of expertise, and at least eight senior attorneys and at seven Groundwater Quality Bureau managers and staff have left the department because they could no longer carry out the policies and management directives of the department.

“This loss of critical expertise and historical knowledge has resulted in delays in issuance of permits and low staff morale since the Martinez administration took over,” Feibelman said.
Contact: Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter director, 505.715.8388,
Demis Foster, Conservation Voters New Mexico executive director, 505-992-8683
Sanders Moore, Environment New Mexico director, 505-254-4819
Brian Shields, Amigos Bravos executive director, 575-770-0946,
Doug Mieklejohn, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, 505-989-9022