Lawyer Ryan Flynn got his first “Toxic Turkey” award in 2013 while head of the New Mexico Environment Department. He got his second award Sunday, four months after leaving government to become president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center bestowed the “Toxic Turkey” at its annual donor dinner. The award comes in the form of a skinned cartoon turkey on a platter.
The Environmental Law Center said Flynn’s transition from state regulator to the high-paid head of the state’s largest oil and gas lobby epitomized the “revolving door” between government and industry.
The “Toxic Turkey,” given in absentia, is meant “to draw attention to a person, agency or company whose actions have endangered New Mexico’s environment,” the center said in a statement.
The group also has accused Flynn of violating the state Governmental Conduct Act; it says after he left the Environment Department, he sought public records related to work he spearheaded at the agency.
“These petty, personal attacks say more about the Environmental Law Center than Ryan Flynn,” Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said Monday.
Flynn told The New Mexican this fall that, “This same group of attorneys continues to go low and sling mud.” He said his character has been “attacked by bullies masquerading as crusaders” since he began working for the state in 2011.
Gov. Susana Martinez appointed him in 2013 to serve as secretary of the Environment Department.
The Environmental Law Center said Flynn worked to reduce groundwater regulation for the copper mining industry through the “Copper Rule.” The law center and the state Attorney General’s Office have appealed the rule to the New Mexico Supreme Court, claiming it allows companies to legally pollute. The court hasn’t yet ruled.
The law center also said that under Flynn’s leadership of the Environment Department, public participation was discouraged in the groundwater discharge permitting process and in development of new regulations for waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Past recipients of the “Toxic Turkey” include former Gov. Gary Johnson and former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
The law center on Sunday also recognized two people for their environmental protection work.
Former New Mexico Environment Department employee Dale Doremus, who worked in remediation oversight for the Ground and Surface Water Bureau for 30 years, received the Karl Souder Water Protection Award.
The Griff Salisbury Award for Environmental Protection was given to former Environmental Law Center attorney Bruce Frederick for his volunteer work opposing the Copper Rule.
“We think it is important to recognize people who do good work to protect the environment and we did that at the event,” said Douglas Meiklejohn, director of the law center. “We also think it is important to call the public’s attention to people actively working to degrade the environment and reduce the protection provided by state laws and state regulators.”