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The KUNM news team's coverage of the 2020 legislative session and its impacts

YNMG & COVID: Environmental Protection Rollbacks

Marc Cooper via Flickr CC

In episode 37, we're talking about companies and federal officials squeezing through changes to environmental regulation, oil and gas leases, and laws about anti-pipeline demonstrators while the nation's been focused on the pandemic.

We hear from longtime state environment reporter Laura Paskus about the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to allow "regulated industries to use their own discretion to report violations of clean air and water laws," which came about during the pandemic. And we hear Paskus' interview with New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney about what this means for our state.

Then, Liz McKenzie, who went to Standing Rock from New Mexico years ago, responds to three states passing laws to further criminalize people who protest fossile fuel infrastructure, all of which happened in the last two weeks of March, as the country coped with COVID. 

We hear from State Land Office Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard about an emergency oil and gas rule that lets companies stop drilling for at least 30 days, in part because gas prices are tanking.

Rebecca Sobel from WildEarth Guardians talks about frustrations that the Bureau of Land Management is continuing the process of leasing New Mexico's land even during the pandemic, when it's pretty hard for people to register their objections.

And a news update:  The number of people who are confirmed to have the virus in New Mexico jumped by more than a hundred to 794. One more person died, bringing the death toll to 13. Two Pueblos are seeing outbreaks this week, too. There were 52 cases in San Felipe and 31 in Zia. On the Navajo Nation, there are 384 confirmed cases—a high number given the population size. And there have been 15 virus-related deaths. 

We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub


EPA says regulated industries can regulate themselves when it comes to air and water and other environmental concerns right now. NMED says the department's compliance checks are limited too, because folks who work there are social distancing. You're not supposed to be going out looking for polluters. But if you happen to see something, here's who to call:

  • New Mexico Environment Department: 505-827-2855   •   1-800-219-6157
  • Environmental emergencies (24/7): 505-827-9329
  • NMED District Field Offices

And if you have concerns about pollution in your community, reach out to reporter Laura Paskus on Twitter @LauraPaskus or email her

How are things going for you? We want to know. Share your quarantine stories by calling: (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We could roll them into a future episode.


Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, and the New Mexico Local News Fund. 

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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