Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of the New Mexico State Engineer’s regulatory authority over use of surface water in New Mexico when it has been diverted from the Animas River into an acequia in Colorado and accessed from that ditch by Petitioners and others in New Mexico. After review, the Court rejected petitioners’ arguments that the State Engineer lacked statutory authority over waters initially diverted outside of New Mexico and had no jurisdiction to enjoin petitioners from irrigating an area of farmland not subject to an existing adjudicated water right or a permit from the State Engineer. The Court held that the State Engineer was authorized by New Mexico law to require a permit for new, expanded, or modified use of this water and to enjoin any unlawful diversion. View "State Engineer v. Diamond K Bar Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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Horace Bounds farmed in the Mimbres basin. Along with the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, Petitioners brought a facial constitutional challenge against the New Mexico Domestic Well Statute (DWS). Petitioners contended that the DWS violated the New Mexico constitutional doctrine of prior appropriation as well as due process of law. Petitioners' won at the district court level, but not at the Court of Appeals. Agreeing with the substance of the appellate court's opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding the DWS does not violate either the doctrine of prior appropriation set forth in the New Mexico Constitution or the guarantees of due process of law. View "Bounds v. State ex rel. D'Antonio" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned the construction of a single word, "sudden," within a pollution exclusion clause in a series of liability insurance policies barring coverage for certain damages unless the events causing those damages were "sudden and accidental" (an issue of first impression in New Mexico). Concluding that "sudden" lacks a single clear meaning, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that the word unambiguously signifies "quick, abrupt, or a temporarily short period of time. . . .Under well-established principles of insurance law," the Court construed this ambiguity in favor of the insured, Petitioner United Nuclear Corporation, and interpreted the term "sudden" in the insurance policies at issue in this dispute to mean "unexpected." the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "United Nuclear Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court in this case was whether NMSA 1978, Section 72-2-9.1 (2003), provided a constitutional delegation of authority for the Office of the State Engineer to adopt new regulations to administer water resources according to administrative interim priority determinations based on a number of factors. The district court and Court of Appeals concluded that it did not and that the State Engineer’s lawful authority to supervise water allocations could be exercised only on the basis of licenses issued by the State Engineer and adjudications in court. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed and held that the Legislature delegated lawful authority to the State Engineer to promulgate the challenged water administration regulations. Furthermore, the Court held that the regulations were not unconstitutional on separation of powers, due process, or vagueness grounds. View "Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assn., Inc. v. D'Antonio" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court addressed the question of what level of participation in an administrative rule-making proceeding gives a participant the right to defend that new rule in an appellate court during a subsequent appeal. Each of the four petitions for writs of superintending control stemmed from an appeal of a decision made by one of two administrative agencies, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) or the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC). Those petitions arose from appeals of administrative rule makings: one appeal challenging rules adopted by EIB and the other challenging rules adopted by WQCC. The Court of Appeals denied appellee status to all four Petitioners, and the Petitioners requested that the Supreme Court issue writs of superintending control to overturn those rulings. The Court consolidated the four petitions and, after hearing oral arguments, issued the writs requested by three of the Petitioners while rejecting the fourth: "[b]eyond the party initiating the proceeding, [the Court] need only decide in this case whether participants who have presented technical testimony are 'parties' to an appeal as contemplated under [New Mexico] rules. [The Court concluded] that they are." [Petitioners] were not just participants who happened to be recognized as parties by EIB and WQCC. Rather, each participated in the rule-making proceedings in a legally significant manner. Each was required to file advance notice of participation, naming their witnesses and the witnesses' qualifications, and each was required to satisfy other prerequisites to their testimony. In addition, Petitioners contributed the kind of evidence that directly informed the inquiries made by EIB and WQCC in making their final decisions. Thus, the Court concluded that the requirements imposed upon Petitioners afforded them a right to defend their positions as parties on appeal. View "New Energy Economy Inc. v. Vanzi" on Justia Law