In 2013, the Martinez Administration committed one of the most flagrant violations of the public trust in recent memory.
After years of work by technical experts and an advisory committee composed of stakeholders from all sides, a draft rule to protect the state’s groundwater from copper-mining pollution was submitted to the Environment Department by the department’s technical staff and consultant Bill Olson (a former Groundwater Quality Bureau chief for the department).
Freeport-McMoRan, the copper giant that owns the three biggest copper mines in New Mexico, submitted suggested changes to the draft, but Environment Department technical staff and lawyers and consultant Olson advised Environment Department General Counsel Ryan Flynn (now the Environment secretary), that those changes would violate our Water Quality Act because they allowed pollution of New Mexico’s groundwater above standards.
Without any explanation and against the advice of his own technical staff, Flynn submitted a rule that included every single change requested by Freeport McMoRan.
Flynn couldn’t get any of his own technical staff to testify in favor of the Freeport-McMoRan-ized Copper Rule; Olson, the consultant hired by Flynn to write the rule, testified against it, along with several other technical experts; and hundreds of New Mexicans commented both in person and in writing against it.
And yet, a Water Quality Control Commission stacked with industry-friendly Martinez appointees approved this outrageous rule nearly unanimously.
Several groups, along with the New Mexico attorney general, are now appealing the Copper Rule to the state Supreme Court. But the Attorney General’s office began its opposition under previous office-holder Gary King, and current Attorney General Hector Balderas may be feeling pressure to reverse his office’s opposition to the rule.
Please make your voice heard. Now. Thank Attorney General Balderas for his office’s good work and tell him to keep fighting the good fight. Just follow this link, enter your information, and send a message thanking him for appealing the Copper Rule.
Thank you for taking action and for all you do for New Mexico’s environment!
Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter chair