DEAR FRIENDS OF NEW MEXICO'S RIVERS AND WATERWAYS ~
In this issue, we are focused on immediate efforts to safeguard New Mexico's future drinking water from copper mine pollution. Amigos Bravos and our experts will testify this week before the Water Quality Control Commission. Decisions on those safeguards (or lack of them) will follow. Please scroll down to learn about highly controversial actions by the Martínez administration in relation to mining regulations; hearings currently taking place in Santa Fe; and, how you can participate from both near and far.
We are also happy to announce the annual
Amigos Bravos Raffle for the Rio! The winner of the raffle will get to choose between a beautiful acre of land in the foothills of northern New Mexico, OR airfare and lodging for two at the Pisac Inn nearby Machu Picchu, Peru, OR $3,000 cash. To purchase tickets, call the Amigos Bravos office (575-758-3874) or visit our website.
Looking ahead, we encourage you to mark your calendar for the marvelous annual Rivers Run Through Us celebration of the Santa Fe River (see sidebar), May 15-19, featuring five days of performances and interactive events at five different sites along the Santa Fe River.
On May 21st at 5:30pm, the Amigos Bravos "Water Matters" Lecture, to be presented at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, will feature three artists - Bobbe Besold, Valerie Martínez, and Dominque Mazeaud of the Rivers Run Through Us team - speaking about their community engagement project in relation to the endangered Santa Fe River.
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San Lorenzo River, Gila Watershed
photo credit: Connie Odé
AMIGOS BRAVOS TESTIFIES AGAINST
BOGUS RULES THAT WILL ALLOW POLLUTION OF NEW MEXICO'S DRINKING WATER BY THE COPPER MINE INDUSTRY
to listen to and watch the proceedings online, go to: http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/webcast/WQCC.aspx
Copper mines, like all hard rock mines, are notorious for polluting groundwater. They are the pollution giants of the southwestern part of New Mexico.
The process for creating regulations that will set criteria for the protection of groundwater by copper mining operations is currently underway in Santa Fe. This rule-making process allows stakeholders to present testimony for or against proposed rules and to suggest alternative measures. It is the opinion of Amigos Bravos and its experts that the proposed rules, in their current form, are contrary to New Mexico's Water Quality Act, the primary law that protects drinking water.
The proposed rules are so controversial that the New Mexico Environment Department is not allowing any of their own experts to testify. Instead, they have hired experts who have made their reputations by testifying on behalf of the mining industry.
Initially, because the Martínez administration had no technical staff for developing copper rules, they hired Bill Olson (director of the Ground Water Quality Bureau under Richardson) to head up an Advisory Committee comprised of Amigos Bravos, Gila Resources Information Project, and representatives from the mining industry. This committee met for six months, for 2-3 full day meetings every month, in Albuquerque.
In good faith, Amigos Bravos devoted considerable resources toward the creation of a proposed set of regulations. We were represented by technical expert, Jim Kuipers of Montana, who has been Amigos Bravos' mining consultant since the late 1990's, and legal expert, Bruce Frederick, of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Although Amigos Bravos compromised on some issues during the process, we felt that the mining industry also compromised on certain issues, and that together we had been able to produce a good set of regulations. Those regulations were then sent to the Secretary of the Environment's office. When the draft rule was released, however, it had no resemblance to what had been discussed and proposed by the Advisory Committee. The surprise version, currently being proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department, will allow for the creation of a "sacrifice zone" directly beneath copper mines, thus allowing for pollution of groundwater. This is unacceptable.
In a telling side event, after the Advisory Committee was disbanded and Bill Olson's contract came to a close, he decided to present testimony in opposition to the surprise proposed rules that the Secretary had handed down. NMED then sued Olson for unfounded breach of contract and asked that the Water Quality Control Commission not accept parts of his testimony. Olson has prevailed and testified at the hearings this past week. His testimony will continue on Tuesday, April 30th, followed by testimony by Brian Shields, Executive Director Amigos Bravos. Amigos Bravos is represented by Tracy Hughes of High Desert Energy + Environment Law Partners, L.L.C.. Sally Smith, of Gila Resources Information Project, will also testify this coming week, as well as technical expert, Jim Kuipers, speaking on behalf of Turner Enterprises. Also opposing the rule is the Office of the Attorney General, represented by Tanis Fox.
Members of the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) were appointed by Governor Martínez. Thus, approval of the ill-advised rules is likely. In that case, Amigos Bravos will take the WQCC's decision to court to uphold the Water Quality Act. It is important that members and the public direct their opinions to the WQCC, as those comments will become part of the public record and the courts will take those comments into consideration when making their decision.
Please email your letters to: Pam.Castaneda@state.nm.us
For help writing your letter, call the Amigos Bravos office or email firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Copper Rules Letter" in the subject heading.
To listen & watch the proceedings online, go to:
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THANK YOU FOR YOUR ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORT OF AMIGOS BRAVOS AND NEW MEXICO'S RIVERS & WATERWAYS!!!