Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE)
The Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment (MASE) works to force cleanup of uranium contaminated areas and stop new mines from opening in our communities. We use community organizing activities, education and outreach, and technical assistance to reach our goals. Community organizing is critical to our work as we mobilize our communities to become active in decision impacting their lives. Technical experts work with us as we prepare to challenge permits before the New Mexico Environment Department.
MASE has five Core Groups that provide the leadership for the network: Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance (BVDA), Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment (LACSE), Post-71 Uranium Workers’ Committee (Post 71), and Red Water Pond Road Community Association (RWPRCA). All decisions for the network are made through a majority vote by the leadership of these groups. (Details about each group can be found on our website: www.swuraniumimpacts.org )
The Core Groups represent environmental justice communities that face disproportionate impacts from historical uranium mining activities. MASE core groups span an area of northwestern New Mexico with a history of racial divisions and separation. As a coalition, we have worked hard to unite our Pueblo, Navajo, and Anglo communities around our traditional and rural lifestyles, with a modern need for environmental protections.
Homestake Barrick-Gold Superfund Site
Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance is leading the long-term effort to hold the Homestake Barrick-Gold (HBG) corporation accountable for the Superfund Cleanup. We hired a hydrologist to develop an alternative model of the background contamination around the site. The model was reviewed by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 and US Geologic Service (USGS) and deemed credible. Since then, EPA has conducted additional well sampling in the area and recently released their results. We have hired our hydrologist back along with a geo-chemist to analyze the new reports. We will be making a presentation to EPA, USGS and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in June.
We have been meeting regularly with the NRC raising concerns about HBG’s failures to clean up the water and to stop radon emissions from their two tailings piles. If it goes our way, HBG may be required to cleanup the ground water to a higher standard.
This community has been suffering from water contamination and radon exposures for more than 40 years. The push back by hiring experts with resources provided by MASE has made a huge difference for the community and provided some hope of finally getting the federal agencies to listen to their stories and provide oversight and accountability to the Homestake Barrick-Gold corporation.
Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments (RECA)
MASE and Post ’71 Uranium Workers Committee organized a on going national campaign to pressure the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the RECA amendments. MASE and others sent between 5 – 6 thousand individually signed postcards to Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the committee. In addition, we worked with Earthworks to create an online petition to send messages to customized Senators and Representatives asking them to support the amendments and call for a hearing. Over 14,000 individual email messages have been sent. (Petition is on the front page of our website: www.swuraniumimpacts.org )
The result of this continual contact over two years was a Judiciary Oversight Hearing held on June 27, 2018. The hearing was called by Senator Larry Crapo from Idaho. He wants RECA expanded to include down-wind communities in his state. He set the topic and speakers for the hearing to only cover down-wind communities and not uranium workers. When we learned about this, MASE immediately started calling our DC contacts to expand the hearing to include uranium workers. We sent postcards directly to Senator Crapo’s office in Idaho calling for the inclusion of uranium workers. We were successful and the Vice President of Navajo Nation spoke during the hearing on the impacts to uranium workers on Navajo Nation and in New Mexico.
Because the RECA Amendments were not approved during the last Congressional session, we are starting all over and are sending postcards and educational materials to the new members of the Judiciary Committees and Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham and Chairman Representative Jerry Nadler.
More information can be found on our website: https://swuraniumimpacts.org/category/library/radiation-exposure-compensation-act/
Mt. Taylor Mine
MASE was notified at the end of December, 2017 that the Mining and Minerals Department had approved a Return-to-Active Permit for the Mt Taylor Uranium Mine allowing them to return to active status. MASE along with Amigos Bravos filed an appeal with the New Mexico Mining Commission. During the Hearing, the chair of the Commission denied our right to present testimony on the economic markets that would show that the Return-to-Active Permit should not have been issued. The grant from NoVo was used to hire an economic expert to testify during the Hearing. He was not able to present.
Our attorney, Eric Jantz with the NM Environmental Law Center (NMELC), followed the Hearing with additional written responses that identified the conflicts of interest the Commission Chair had, the violations during the hearing when we were not allowed to even ask questions about economic issues, yet the entire Commission did ask economic questions, and several of them apologized for asking them.
When the Commission met in public to issue their final decision, the Chair immediately recused himself from the deliberations. The Commission went into Executive Session for discussions. We expected they would quickly return and deny our appeal. Instead, the Commission met for over five hours without a break before returning to issue their decisions. We lost on a 5 to 4 vote. Several of the Commissioners expressed our talking points and concerns during their votes and we were told confidentially that we almost had the 5th vote needed. This was definitely a victory despite the loss.
Since then, MASE and Amigos Bravos have filed an appeal with the First District Court. We had a preliminary hearing in November before the judge. MASE packed the court room with more than 30 supporters who sat through three hours of tedious process discussion. Again, we expected a quick ruling against us, but the Judge took until January to issue his decision on the procedural questions which did go against our request. We continued our appeals process throughout 2019.
In December 2019, attorneys for Rio Grande Resources filed a notice with the NM Environment Department that they were immediately closing the mine and would begin cleanup operations. This is a huge win as it was the only potentially operating uranium mine in New Mexico.