Water polluters look for a final hurrah under pro-industry governor…but NMELC, Amigos Bravos and the Gila Resources Information Project are standing in their way – and we need your help!

Over the past year, Staff Attorney Jaimie Park has challenged an attempt by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to weaken statewide rules governing the quality of groundwater and surface water. The timing could not be more important, as the Trump administration launches an all-out assault on federal water regulations.  Here’s how NMED is looking to weaken the rules that protect your water…

  1. When at first you don’t succeed, make a new, unauthorized regulatory mechanism that reduces transparency.
    NMED wants to use a nifty trick that it employed in the polluting Copper Rule to deal with permit changes across the board: discharge permit “amendments”.  As stated by Jaimie in a recent filing that, “It is conceivable that the public would never receive notice of any changes made to monitoring, reporting, sampling and analysis, closure plan, containment system(s), pollution control unit(s) and sewerage system(s) requirements under NMED’s proposed amendment. This is because NMED’s proposed “discharge permit amendment” would not require public notice, public comment, and an opportunities for public hearing.”
  2. Ensure that new chemicals are covered by water quality rules…but leave a lot off the list.
    NMED does not include dangerous toxins such as chlorobenzene, phthalate, dioxin, chromium III and VI, glyphosate, lead acetate, etc. Those chemicals should be strictly regulated for public health (see our filing, page 24 for a full list of what our clients want added to the list).
  3. Enact standards that could expose ten times as many people to cancer risk than states that are more serious about water protection and public health.
    NMED is proposing water quality standards based on the risk of one cancer per 100,000 exposed persons. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends, and the states of California and Washington have enacted, standards based on the risk of one cancer per 1,000,000 exposed persons. Don’t New Mexicans deserve rules that are as protective of human health?
  4. Too tough to get a permit to pollute, and go through the rigamarole of public notice and hearings? New: lifetime variances!
    Another Martinez gift from the Copper Rule, this would allow companies to obtain variances that allows them to pollute groundwater for the life of a facility (for context, the Chino mine has operated since 1909.) Currently, companies need to reauthorize their variances every five years. The system that we have on hand ensures that companies work to keep water clean; lifetime variances would give them an incentive to pollute.

NMELC and its clients applaud some of the measures that NMED is proposing (for instance, we like the new proposed arsenic standard!) But ultimately these amendments will do more to harm than help our water supplies and the health of New Mexicans.

The Water Quality Control Commission has scheduled a public hearing for November 14. We will keep you informed as that date approaches.