Environment and Natural Resources

Sutin, Thayer & Browne is a major presence in the New Mexico natural resources and renewable resources market, with a sound history in environmental law, water rights, and oil and gas issues. Our environment and natural resources lawyers and specialists offer extensive experience and overlapping knowledge in the regulation and administration of all these resources. Our practice includes transactional attorneys and litigators who collaborate to address critical environmental, energy and water issues.

We serve as general counsel to oil and gas producers and mineral rights owners' groups, advising in entity formation, corporate governance, financing and lending, mergers and acquisitions, and employment law issues. We review and consult with clients regarding oil and gas leases, division orders, operating agreements, and negotiations with property owners, and appearances before the New Mexico Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. We work with landowners, property managers, royalty owners, trustees overseeing mineral rights, and charitable organizations in collecting underpaid royalties and severance taxes. Our clients in this area include individuals, royalty owners, the State of New Mexico and other governmental entities.

Our environmental law practice includes the handling of regulatory matters before local, state, and federal agencies, environmental litigation, and environmental matters related to commercial transactions. We provide advice concerning compliance with environmental laws and regulations, and handle applications for permits, negotiations with the New Mexico Environment Department, and the drafting of stipulations and settlement agreements related to alleged violations. Our environmental litigation experience includes pollution defense matters related to hazardous waste, asbestos, and water quality. We have experience with NEPA and environmental site assessments. We are regularly called upon to handle environmental issues related to real estate and commercial transactions, including assessing environmental risks, advising lenders regarding compliance with environmental laws and regulations, and preparing and reviewing agreements, contractual clauses and indemnifications relating to prevention or mitigation of environmental hazards.

The Firm has extensive experience in defending clients in litigation brought by governmental entities involving allegations of violations of environmental laws, administrative orders of compliance and problems relating to spills and those associated with alleged improper handling, storage and transport of hazardous materials and waste.

We represent clients in defense of and in negotiations with the EPA, DOJ and other regulatory authorities in claims brought under RCRA and related regulations. Our work includes claims and defenses under performance bonds and working out change orders and other contract modifications.

In our water rights practice, we advise clients regarding the nature and extent of their water rights and negotiate and prepare the documentation necessary to buy and sell water rights. We prepare and file with the New Mexico State Engineer the applications necessary to transfer water rights to new owners and to change the place of use or the nature of use of water rights. Our lawyers appear at administrative hearings and application protests and have substantial experience litigating disputes regarding the rights to surface and groundwater.

We represent clients in adjudication lawsuits in the San Juan and San Jose adjudication suits, the Aamodt adjudication, the Zuni adjudication, and the upper-Pecos adjudication. We have represented a number of buyers and sellers in water rights transactions. Our work has included preparation, filing and advocacy related to declarations of water rights, changes of place of use and point of diversion, and changes in ownership; water rights issues with testimony from hydrologists, including the availability of water rights, reduction in groundwater levels and stream depletion resulting from groundwater pumping; determining the quantity and quality of water available; helping lenders, borrowers and public finance authorities understand the role of water rights in secured lending; and analyzing the impact of conditions of approval attached to previous permits.

  • We have been significantly involved in oil and gas litigation relating to royalties.
  • We represent a number of regulated clients in environmental matters that involve the New Mexico Environment Department, including matters concerning storage tanks, groundwater regulation, wastewater discharge, solid waste disposal and CERCLA liability. This includes permit transfers and applications for new permits for successors-in-interest to non-transferable permits.
  • We have represented a number of regulated clients before local agencies charged with environmental enforcement, including the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Commission and the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department. We have also represented clients before such authorities in other parts of the state.
  • We represented a cheese plant in Lovington, New Mexico, in litigation with the New Mexico Environment Department over accidental discharge of waste that allegedly affected a municipal water treatment plant. We assisted our client in negotiating an acceptable resolution.
  • We represented a state agency in the development of a public-private partnership, including construction of a new facility, National Environmental Policy Act review, negotiations of the public-private agreements, implementation of related incremental taxes, and advisement to the governing body.
  • We have represented a number of public and private clients involved in environmentally sensitive transactions, including the NEPA process, state environmental permitting, and brownfield redevelopment.
  • We represented state government in the acquisition of a rail line, including coordinating environmental due diligence and negotiating environmental provisions of the purchase contract.
  • We represented clients in compliance matters involving the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act, the New Mexico Ground Water Protection Act, the New Mexico Solid Waste Act, the New Mexico Mining Act, and the regulations adopted under each of those Acts.
  • We have provided advice concerning compliance with environmental laws and regulations and have handled applications for permits, negotiations with the New Mexico Environment Department, and drafting of stipulations and settlement agreements related to alleged violations.
  • We represented construction companies in National Pollution Elimination and Discharge System permitting processes, including in administrative proceedings.
  • We represented clients in issues regarding historic and prehistoric preservation, including the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act.
  • We represented the Village of Corrales in an administrative hearing by the Office of the State Engineer in which Corrales and the Bureau of Indian Affairs protested Rio Rancho’s application to annually appropriate 12,000 acre-feet of groundwater from wells near the boundaries of Corrales.
  • We have experience in federal water law in representation of the State of Kansas in its interstate compact enforcement lawsuit against the State of Colorado, and the State of New Mexico with respect to the lower Rio-Grande against Texas.