By Rachel Conn, Amigos Bravos interim director
Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has again jumped at an opportunity to diminish protections for our drinking water. In September, the EPA finalized a Clean Water Rule that clarifies that waters that were historically covered under the federal Clean Water Act, such as small tributary streams and wetlands, are once again covered by the federal law.
The Martinez administration, joining 12 other states, filed a lawsuit to block the rule. A federal judge has ruled that while the suit is pending, the rule will not apply to waters in the 13 states.
This action by the state is doubly irresponsible because, unlike other states, New Mexico does not have a state regulatory structure in place to control discharges into our rivers and streams.
The federal Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, guided the transition from rivers that literally caught on fire to healthy watersheds. It requires wastewater and industrial facilities to clean water before discharging into the nation’s rivers.
Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left protections for some waters that had been covered under the Clean Water Act, such as those that flow intermittently or are isolated, uncertain. EPA estimates that at least 280,000 people in the state receive drinking water from ephemeral and/or intermittent sources.
The new rule clarifies that some of the rivers, streams, and wetlands that fell through the cracks in the post-2001 confusion are indeed protected.
Because of the state’s lawsuit, New Mexico’s waters are still being denied those protections.
Photo by Billy Hathorn
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons