By Rosanne Boyett, Cibola County Beacon

CIBOLA COUNTY – The New Mexico State Senate confirmed Ryan Flynn as Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) on Feb. 18.

“Secretary Flynn has shown himself to be a dependable leader for the New Mexico Environment Department,” Governor Susana Martinez said. “He brings a balanced approach basing big decisions on sound science and input from all parties.”

“My approach has always been to consider what’s best for the environment here,” Secretary Flynn said in a press release. “I also truly appreciate the views of those opposed to my confirmation. My track record has shown that I listen to all sides of environmental issues, carefully consider what options provide environmental protection, and work to the best of my ability to find common ground with all interests. I appreciate that many people share with me a strong passion to protect our precious natural resources.”

A number of area residents don’t agree with Flynn’s comments about working together.

Nadine Padilla, Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) member, was part of a group of Cibola County residents who visited Flynn late last year.

“Overall, we got the clear understanding that Secretary Flynn was not interested in hearing community members’ concerns,” recalled Padilla, “but he seemed more interested in pushing permits.”

She expressed a sense of frustration, “We’re only seeing one piece of the puzzle at a time. Our concerns include the quantity and quality of water being used during the Homestake Mining remediation process.”

Jonnie Head explained that members of Bluewater Downstream Alliance (BWDA), MASE, the Laguna-Acoma Coalition, and Paul Robinson, of the Southwest Research Information Center, had met with NMED officials in Santa Fe on Dec. 18.

“Our goal was to meet with NMED staff before the Homestake discharge plan (HMC DP-200) was issued,” recalled Head.

“The issues surrounding the ground water discharge permit for the Homestake remediation site are technical and complex, and the administrative record is substantial,” acknowledged Kurt Vollbrecht, NMED Ground Water Quality Bureau.

“This proposed change is going to use a lot of water that will be drawn from the San Andreas aquifer, which supplies Milan, Grants, Laguna, Acoma, and others who live downstream. That water is very important to all of us,” stressed Head.

“We are very concerned,” agreed MASE member Padilla.

“Ryan Flynn is not the appropriate person to lead the New Mexico Environment Department,” Conservation Voters of New Mexico (CVNM) Executive Director Demis Foster said via email on Feb. 21. “It’s clear from his actions that he is willing to compromise [our] drinking water in order to be business-friendly. His actions on the Copper Rule proved that he does not put the state’s groundwater first.”

The CVNM hosted several presentations last year in Cibola and McKinley Counties to help residents understand threats to water quality.

Governor Martinez’ administration has emphasized the need to streamline the permitting process, according to NMED officials.

Flynn served as the NMED General Counsel from January 2011 to April 2013 and accepted the Governor’s appointment last year as NMED Secretary in April.