Clean Water Rule Update:
President Obama Vetoes Congressional Attempt to Block Clean Water Rule and Governor Martinez Joins Dirty Water Lawsuit to Stop the Rule.
Amigos Bravos has been working for over a decade to restore critical Clean Water Act protections to rivers and streams in New Mexico that were lost as a result of two Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006. Since these two Supreme Court rulings, protections for about 60 percent of the nation's streams (and over 90% of New Mexico's streams!) has been confusing and unclear.
Read comments by Amigos Bravos specific to New Mexico here.
In 2015 the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule, known as the "Clean Water Rule" to clarify what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act, the federal law enacted in 1972 that has resulted in massive improvements to water quality across New Mexico and the nation. Earlier this month President Obama rejected a congressional dirty water resolution that would have blocked the Clean Water Rule.
to read a letter against this dirty water resolution
sent by Amigos Bravos and other community organizations.
Earlier in 2015 Governor Martinez's Environment Department and the New Mexico State Engineer joined a lawsuit challenging the Clean Water Rule. This dirty water lawsuit is doubly irresponsible by the Governor because, not only does the Rule ensure that critical New Mexico tributaries and wetlands are protected, here in New Mexico - unlike in other states - we do not have state program in place to control and limit discharges of pollutants into our waters. Therefore, if federal protections are denied, as advocated by Governor Martinez, our waters are left completely unprotected and vulnerable to unregulated dumping of pollution.
While the Rule has been finalized by EPA and USACE due to numerous lawsuits, including the one joined by Governor Martinez, the Clean Water Rule has been stayed by the courts and implementation of the Rule is on hold until there is a final court ruling.
What Does the Clean Water Rule Do?
- The Clean Water Rule restores prior protections that once existed for a variety of water bodies, including tributaries to traditionally navigable waters. In New Mexico traditionally navigable waters are considered only the mainstems of 5 river systems - Rio Grande, Canadian, Pecos, Gila, and San Juan. This Rule would ensure that tributaries to the mainstems of these rivers would have Clean Water Act protections.
- The Clean Water Rule provides clarity and reduces permitting delays. After Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006, which waters were protected under the Clean Water Act was confusing and therefore lengthy jurisdictional studies and determinations were necessary. This Rule better clarifies which waters are protected and eliminates the need for many of these expensive and time consuming regulatory processes.
- Contrary to many statements made about the Rule, while it returns many critical protections to smaller tributaries across New Mexico, it is NOT a massive expansion of Clean Water jurisdiction compared to protections that were in place prior to 2001.
- Under this rule less waters would be protected than were protected under the Regan Administration. While the Rule would restore some critical protections, it would only expand current application of the Clean Water Act by 3% and does not begin to cover all the waters that lost protections since 2001 and 2006. In New Mexico even under the new rule waters in closed basins and playa lakes, which were protected prior to 2001, still would not have Clean Water Act coverage restored.
Lawsuit to Challenge Feds' Approval of Decades More Coal Pollution at Four Corners
Amigos Bravos joins Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Amigos Bravos, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club. They are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.
"While the rest of the world is transitioning to alternative forms of energy, the Four Corners Power Plant continues to burn coal and will do so for the next 25 years," said Colleen Cooley with Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment. "Prolonging coal not only condemns our health and the water, air, and land around us, it undermines our community's economic future because we are not investing and transitioning to clean energy. Even former owner of the Navajo Mine, BHP Billiton has exited many coal contracts across the globe because coal is no longer economically feasible."
Together, the groups filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies for approving the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project in July. The approval prolongs the 52-year-old power plant and coal mine - among the most notorious for coal contamination in the country - through 2041 despite impacts from coal toxins to communities, the San Juan River Basin, its ecosystems and endangered species.
"Mercury is the top cause of water quality impairment in New Mexico lakes and reservoirs," said Rachel Conn, interim executive director for Amigos Bravos. "Over 60,000 acres of New Mexican lakes and reservoirs are polluted with Mercury. It is unacceptable that in over half of the State's lakes and reservoirs, New Mexicans can no longer fish without worrying about poisoning their families."
"Federal agencies must assure that coal operations follow the law. What agencies can't do is bend the law to accommodate coal operations, but that's just what they did here," said Western Environmental Law Center Attorney Shiloh Hernandez. "What this really shows is the outdated and heavily polluting Navajo Mine and Four Corners Power Plant can't operate in compliance with the law. These facilities are obsolete and need to transition."
To see the full version of the Press Release, click here
Thank You for Your Gifts During the 2015 Special Year-end Appeal!
Amigos Bravos asked for your help to ensure clean water and free-flowing rivers for future generations during our 2015 Special Year-end Appeal. And many of you graciously gave a gift during this holiday season. As a result, we were able to meet our fundraising goal!
Your support will build an informed and mobilized grassroots river protection and restoration movement here in New Mexico. Thank you for giving - We make every dollar count!