photo of surface discharge

Below are the New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s objections to the NMED proposed revisions to
the groundwater and surface water regulations, which are available here. Some of the proposed changes are onerous and directly attack public participation, make variances essentially permanent, and take the Kirtland spill “off the books” in terms of regulation

  1. On page 10, a proposed revision to variances would permit variances to be granted for periods in excess of 5 years. There would be no cap on the duration of a variance.  They raise the following question: if a variance is now in perpetuity, is it even a variance? Currently, the proposed revision says that NMED will review the variance every 5 years, along with a discharge permit (DP) renewal; that the existence and nature of a variance shall be disclosed in all public notices applicable to the DP; and that on appeal from a decision by the department to renew or modify a facility’s DP, any party may present argument and evidence to the commission to reconsider the granting of an existing variance for the same facility. This has the appearance of limiting public participation.
  2. On page 22, the proposed revision pertaining to exemptions from discharge permits would exempt KAFB from having to apply for discharge permits pertaining to the bulk fuels facility spill (and any other effluent or leachate discharges which are regulated under RCRA). This is clearly a way to circumvent public participation for discharge permits and the bulk fuels facility spill cleanup at KAFB.
  3. On page 2, a new term, “discharge permit amendment” has been added, which states that DP amendments aren’t subject to public notice or a public hearing (p. 23). The definition of amendment is unclear.  Permittees and NMED will be able to say time and time again that “it’s just a permit amendment, it isn’t a modification.”  Permit modifications do require public notice and opportunity for a public hearing. This is another way of circumventing public participation in DPs.
  4. On page 24, the proposed revision is to reduce the size of the public notice signs that permittees must post from 2 feet by 3 feet to a mere 11 inches by 17 inches.
  5. Pages 33 through 35 deal with proposed revisions to alternate abatement standards. Of concern is that the secretary or the WQCC commission may approve a technical infeasibility demonstration (and alternate abatement standards) for water contaminants in which the concentration is greater than 200 percent of the abatement standard for that contaminant. Under the current regulations, “In no event shall a proposed technical infeasibility demonstration be approved by the secretary for any water contaminant if its concentration is greater than 200 percent of the abatement standard for that contaminant.”


Read the full comments by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.

If you wish to comment, public meetings are scheduled for September 20 in Las Cruces, September 22 in Albuquerque, September 28 in Las Cruces and September 29 in Roswell.

Other comments can be submitted by electronic mail to the GWQB at NMENV.GWQBrulerev@state.nm.us no later than 5 PM MDT on Monday, October 17, 2016.

Contact the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club – John Buchser.

Featured image from Wikimedia.

Comments on proposed revisions to NM water protection regulations