WATER IS PRECIOUS IN NEW MEXICO: LET'S PROTECT IT!
In November, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted lengthy comments from Amigos Bravos and other members of the public on a proposed rule to protect clean water. Amigos Bravos supports this rule, wholeheartedly. Here's why.
Without this new rule, 90% of New Mexico's rivers and streams are under threat of unregulated dumping of pollutants. In 2001 and 2006, Supreme Court decisions were made that created uncertainty in regard to Clean Water Act protections for some waters that historically had been covered under the law, such as waters that flow intermittently or are isolated. Many of our rivers and streams lost Clean Water Act protection.
Because New Mexico is an arid state where less than 10% of our rivers and streams flow year-round, and because many of our water resources are in closed basins, New Mexico is disproportionately vulnerable to pollution. The EPA proposed rule would clarify that some of the rivers, streams, and wetlands, which fell through the cracks in the confusion of the post Supreme Court rulings, are indeed protected. Contrary to the fear mongering that we see popping up all over the country in response to the EPA proposed rule, even if it is passed, less water will be protected than was protected during the Reagan Administration.
This rule does not threaten farmers. In fact, the proposed rule protects farmers by protecting clean water and rewarding conservation practices. All of the agricultural exemptions that have been in place for decades will continue. In fact, the rule adds 56 beneficial conservation practices to the exemption. However, the anti-rule rhetoric has become so overblown that some people are claiming that the EPA proposed rule would regulate puddles in driveways. Amusing as this may be, it is also a falsehood intended to scare people and it was meant to create opposition to environmental protections during what was a contentious election year.
Water is precious in New Mexico. Without clean water, our way of life is threatened and our communities suffer. While the proposed rule does not restore all of the protections that were lost (that would require action by Congress), it is a good first step toward restoring some of the protections that were in place for almost 30 years. Those protections guided an earlier reclamation of rivers - rivers that had literally self-ignited due to the combination of chemicals and other pollutants in their waters. Rivers that were once decimated are now healthy watersheds where species like the bald eagle and river otter are able to thrive.
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