Water Quality Advocates File Brief with NM Supreme Court to Repeal Copper Rule and Protect Groundwater
October 22, 2015
On Monday, advocates for water quality filed their Brief in Chief with the New Mexico Supreme Court on the state’s Copper Rule. The brief outlines why the Court should set aside the Rule, which regulates the discharge of copper mining pollution into groundwater. The state Court of Appeals upheld the regulation in May, even though the Rule neither prevents water pollution nor protects New Mexico’s limited ground water supplies as required by the New Mexico Water Quality Act. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case in June.
Monday’s brief was filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) on behalf of Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP), Amigos Bravos and Turner Ranch Properties, L.P. (Visit NMELC case page)
“The Rule violates the Water Quality Act because it imposes no limit on the magnitude, extent, or duration of the pollution discharged by copper mines,” says Douglas Meiklejohn, NMELC Executive Director and lead attorney on the case. “The Act mandates that New Mexico’s ground water be protected. We hope the Court will agree.”
Freeport McMoRan, the world’s largest publicly-owned copper mining company, worked closely with the New Mexico Environment Department to draft the Rule, which was adopted in 2013. In 2015 the Court of Appeals upheld the State’s adoption of the Rule. The State Attorney General and a former State Groundwater Bureau Chief have also filed briefs with the Supreme Court requesting that the Rule be thrown out.
“As communities throughout the state are confronted by the critical impacts of long-term drought, it is irresponsible to allow mining companies to pollute groundwater that is needed by everyone,” says Allyson Siwik, GRIP Executive Director. “This is a precedent setting case and the New Mexico Supreme Court needs to restore the integrity of our Water Quality Act so that it protects groundwater for all of us.”
“The Court’s resolution of this appeal will determine whether the copper industry can pollute ground water as a matter of right,” says Meiklejohn, “and whether the Water Quality Control Commission and New Mexico Environment Department have a duty under the Act to prevent water pollution and protect our limited ground water supplies for present and future use.”
The brief requests that the Supreme Court reverse the Court of Appeals’ opinion and set aside the Rule. Appellants also request that the Supreme Court remand the Rule to the Water Quality Control Commission to adopt a regulation that prevents water pollution at copper mines in accordance with the NM Water Quality Act.