by Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

August 31, 2021

A federal judge has struck down a Trump-era rule that removed federal protections from nearly all of New Mexico’s waters, a court decision that environmentalists said was vital while the Biden administration works through a lengthy process to create a new water rule.

U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Marquez on Monday wrote the Trump rule contained serious errors and, echoing conservationists’ concerns, argued it would cause “serious environmental harm” to the nation’s waterways if left in place.

Known as the navigable waters rule, it only protected waterways that flow year-round or seasonally and connect to another body of water.

That excluded as “ephemeral” an estimated 90 percent of New Mexico’s waterways and also didn’t regulate runoff that could carry pollutants to rivers used for drinking water.

“It’s great news for clean water in New Mexico,” said Rachel Conn, project director for Taos-based Amigos Bravos, a water advocacy group.

The judge’s decision vacates the Trump rule immediately, and it can be restored only if a higher court overrules this judge on appeal, said Charles de Saillan, staff attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center….

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