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An Act Relating To The Environment; Enacting The Uranium Legacy Cleanup Act; Providing For The Administration Of That Act And Cleanup Actions To Be Taken Pursuant To It; Creating Revenue Sources To Fund Uranium Legacy Cleanup Activities; Amending And Enacting Certain Sections Of The Nmsa 1978; Imposing Strict Liability On Uranium Mining Operations; Making Appropriations.

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This bill, effective January 1, 2016, enacts the Uranium Legacy Cleanup Act and creates the Uranium Legacy Cleanup Fund to be administered by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD). Expenditures from the fund will be used to provide financial assistance for qualified projects directed at the elimination or reduction of human exposure to contamination resulting from uranium mining or milling activities prior to July 1, 2015.


The Secretary of EMNRD will adopt rules for applying for financial assistance from the fund and for establishing priorities for qualified projects, based on factors including, among others:

  • the protection of public health, safety and welfare, and the environment;
  • the ability to leverage funds available from other sources to implement qualified projects and the degree to which a qualified project can be completed with the requested funding;
  • the size of the area to be included, the number of persons affected, and the level of radiation exposure at the project site; and
  • the potential for increased contamination or human exposure if the project site is not cleaned up.


The Secretary of EMNRD is required to report to the appropriate interim legislative committee no later than October 1 of each year regarding the amount and purposes of expenditures from the fund, an analysis of the projects funded and proposals for legislative action.


The bill creates a new section of the Resources Excise Tax Act imposing on any severer or related processor of uranium in New Mexico a Uranium Legacy Cleanup Surtax, at a rate of two percent on the taxable value of the uranium severed or processed. Funding sources for the Uranium Legacy Cleanup Fund include the net receipts attributable to the new Uranium Legacy Cleanup Surtax and 50 percent of the net receipts attributable to the Resources, Processors and Service Taxes on uranium pursuant to the Resources Excise Tax Act.


New material regarding uranium mining imposes strict liability for all costs of removal or remedial action incurred by the state of New Mexico because of a direct or indirect release, or threatened release, of contaminants into the environment that may, with reasonable probability, injure human health, animal or plant life or property, or unreasonably interfere with the public welfare or use of the property for a purpose other than a uranium mining operation. Those persons who will be strictly liable for costs include:

  • the owner or operator of a uranium mining, milling or exploration operation;
  • any person having a permit issued pursuant to the New Mexico Mining Act or Water Quality Act that covers a uranium mining, milling or exploration operation;
  • any person who owned the real property upon which a uranium mining, milling or exploration operation was conducted at the time of, or after the conduct of the operation; and
  • a successor-in-interest to the uranium mining, milling or exploration operation or the real property upon which the operation was situated.


Potential benefits of this bill might include improvement of the state’s land, air and water quality and public health due to: (1) significant funding for and oversight of cleanup projects at existing sites where uranium mining or milling activities took place prior to July 1, 2015; and (2) imposition on owners and operators of strict liability for all removal or remediation costs associated with uranium mining, milling and exploration operations.