NMED’s draft rules limit public participation and expand polluters’ ability to discharge above water quality standards
Send in your comments to NMED by August 17
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is in the process of revising statewide surface water and groundwater quality regulations for the state. Our colleagues at the NM Environmental Law Center have analyzed the rules and flagged some significant problems with how the Martinez Administration is trying to strip provisions for public participation and “streamline” the permitting process, expanding polluters’ ability to discharge above water quality standards
Public participation is critical to water pollution decision-making.
Because NMED’s decisions can negatively impact people’s lives and the environment, public input is an important part of the decision-making process and is required under the state’s Water Quality Act. Public participation provisions require notification of communities about potential impacts to surface and groundwater quality from polluters and provide opportunities for people to raise concerns about projects that could contaminate water resources, affecting public health and the environment.
Proposed rule changes limit your voice in water pollution decisions.
The Martinez Administration wants to limit your knowledge of and participation in NMED’s decisions. Proposed changes to the state’s water quality rules would introduce ill-defined permit “amendments” that would replace some permit modifications. Amendments would not require public notice, comment or an opportunity for a public hearing, allowing polluters to sneak through changes with potential negative consequences without public knowledge and input. Proposed language would limit notice of the agency’s decisions on discharge permits to only “persons who participated in the permitting action.” This could mean that only persons who were represented by an attorney in a permit proceeding would receive decisions.
Existing ground and surface water protection rules limit polluters’ ability to violate water quality standards.
Currently, polluters need a variance from groundwater quality rules if they will contaminate groundwater above water quality standards. Polluters must reapply for the variance every five years. Given importance of granting a variance, only the 14-member Water Quality Control Commission can approve them and the public is allowed to participate in these proceedings and provide public comment.
Proposed rule changes “streamline” the water quality discharge permitting process, expanding polluters’ ability to discharge above water quality standards
Variances for facilities that pollute water would be for an unlimited duration rather than for a five-year period and NMED’s periodic review of the variance would not necessarily require a public hearing before the WQCC. Under NMED’s proposed rules, the NMED Secretary would have sole authority to make decisions about some types of variances. These rule changes work to the advantage of the polluter and could shut out the public from the decision-making process.
Tell NMED you oppose weakening these important public participation and variance provisions in the Ground and Surface Water Protection Regulations.
Comments on NMED’s Revisions to Ground and Surface Water Protection Regulations are due August 17, 2016.
Click here to tell NMED you oppose weakening these important public participation and variance provisions in the Ground and Surface Water Protection Regulations
If you’d like to send your own letter:
Letters should be sent to Steve Huddleson, Pollution Prevention Section, Room N2250, New Mexico Environment Department, 1190 St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, NM 87505.
Emails can be sent to NMENV.GWQBrulerev@state.nm.us
NMED’s website – https://www.env.nm.gov/gwb/
NMELC legal analysis – http://nmenvirolaw.org/images/pdf/NMED_PROP_REVISIONS_TO_SURFACE-GROUND_WATER_REGS.pdf