FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: May 9, 2023
Joey Keefe, Assistant Commissioner of Communications
Commissioner Garcia Richard Denounces Federal Approval of Holtec Nuclear Dump Site
SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard has issued a statement regarding the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision today to issue a license for the construction of Holtec International’s nuclear storage facility in Lea County.
Statement from Commissioner Garcia Richard:
“This is a bad idea, full stop. Placing a nuclear storage facility in the heart of oil and gas operations is a recipe for ecological disaster and unnecessarily puts New Mexicans at risk. Since being elected Land Commissioner, I have been opposed to making New Mexico the permanent home for nuclear waste because of the threats to New Mexicans’ health, safety, and economic development. We shouldn’t let unelected bureaucrats in Washington jam through this shaky proposal that will bring massive profits to an out-of-state company with a troubled safety record, while putting our people and environment in harm’s way. Bottom line, the world’s most active oil and gas producing field is not the right place for a long-term nuclear waste storage site. Holtec needs to understand that New Mexico is not the nation’s dumping ground and should stop misleading the public about the dangers their proposal presents.”
The proposed waste dump site is located in the middle of the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most productive oil and gas regions. Nearly 2,500 oil, gas, and mineral wells or sites are operated by 54 different businesses or entities within a 10-mile radius of the proposed site. Locating an interim nuclear storage site above active oil, gas, and mining operations raises serious safety concerns. Also threatened by the site would be the billions of dollars in annual revenue that State Land Office leases generate for education in New Mexico.
Additionally, the surface and mineral estates have split ownership at the proposed site, with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance LLC owning the surface land and the State of New Mexico, through the State Land Office, owning the mineral estate beneath the land. Holtec has falsely claimed to have secured agreements from oil and gas operators at or around the site to restrict these activities, specifically assuring the NRC that oil and gas drilling will only occur at depths greater than 5,000 feet. However, there are no such agreements containing these restrictions in place with oil and gas lessees at the site or the State Land Office. One agreement has been made with Intrepid Mining, LLC, a potash mining company, but that agreement has not been approved, as required by lease terms, by the State Land Office.
Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard has overseen the New Mexico State Land Office since 2019. In that time the agency has raised more than $5 billion for New Mexico public schools, hospitals, and universities. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The State Land Office has a dual mandate to use state trust land to financially support vital public institutions, while simultaneously working to protect the land for future generations.