House energy committee signs off on push for federal support for New Mexico’s downwinders

Members of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee were visibly distressed during a presentation about radiation exposure in New Mexico stemming from the 1945 Trinity nuclear bomb test and subsequent uranium mining that supported the federal nuclear program during World War II and the Cold War. Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, introduced House Memorial 5, which asks the congressional delegation to continue pushing for the state to be included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). “There was a lot of testing in our past, and New Mexicans have not been properly compensated, unlike other parts of the country,” Rubio said. “This memorial asks the legislature here to support us asking Congress to continue to push for this expansion and include our communities in the state of New Mexico.”

Downwind communities fight for recognition

RECA was enacted in 1990 to give financial assistance and healthcare to communities who were exposed to radiation through nuclear weapons testing in Nevada and other activities carried out by the federal government during that last half of the 20th century. The federal legislation offered assistance to “downwind” communities in Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, but not New Mexico — despite the fact that New Mexico’s Trinity bomb test exposed local communities to much higher levels of radiation than the nuclear bomb tests in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s.