Amigos Bravos and Gila Resources Information Project (AB/GRIP), represented by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, challenged the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) petition to the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) seeking changes to ground and surface water quality regulations.

The hearing ran November 14-17. Ahead of the hearing, AB/GRIP and NMED came to an agreement on changes to definitions of “toxic pollutant” and human health standards for groundwater, and accordingly NMED agreed to convene a working group and bring recommendations to the WQCC by December 2109. NMED withdrew a contentious proposal for “discharge permit amendments” for so-called “minor” changes without public notice or hearing. AB/GRIP strongly opposed the proposal, and NMED suddenly withdrew it just before the hearing.

Another important issue discussed was NMED’s proposal to allow variances “for the life of the facility,” which is illegal under the NM Water Quality Act and gives industry no incentive to improve discharge practices. AB/GRIP also challenged NMED’s refusal to increase permit fees, as well as some changes to rules for abatement plans. AB/GRIP and the NM Environmental Law Center will continue to follow NMED and industry practices after the WQCC hearing and decision.