May 12, 2015

WQCC approves Dairy Rule compromise


The Water Quality Control Commission approved of a compromise on water quality controls that groups agreed to last month.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the Dairy Rule.

“Today’s landmark agreement is critical to southern New Mexico’s economy and water quality, but also to the state as a whole given the dairy industry’s $1.4 billion economic impact,” state Attorney General Hector Balderas said. “This agreement — among the Office of the Attorney General, environmentalists, industry, and the executive branch — is a model of how different partners in our state can work together to find tangible solutions for the people of New Mexico. I applaud the efforts of all parties in reaching this agreement that protects our environment, human health and supports a critical industry in New Mexico.”

Environmental groups also weighed in on the vote.

“This settlement is unique in that the environmental coalition we represent initiated discussions with the dairy industry,” New Mexico Environmental Law Center staff attorney Jon Block said in a statement. “We came up with a set of agreed-upon changes to the rules that they can live with and, we think, provide the New Mexico Environment Department with the means to protect groundwater. This was a win-win situation for all concerned and this time the dairy industry has real ownership of the final rule.”

“This is a great step forward because protection of our state’s groundwater resources has never been more critical,” Conservation Coordinator for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Dan Lorimer said.

Last month, New Mexico Political Report outlined the deal between environmental groups and the dairy industry over the controversy, which dated back to the very first hours of Gov. Susana Martinez’s time in office.

Martinez had sought to stop the publication of rules put into place by the WQCC during the final weeks of the Richardson administration. This eventually went to the Supreme Court which ruled that Martinez must publish the rules. Later, the WQCC came up with new rules, but court challenges mounted and continued until the deal was struck last month.

Included in the deal is more monitoring wells around dairies while allowing dairies to install clay liners to protect groundwater. Environmental groups preferred synthetic liners, which the groups say are more effective. Dairies do not like the synthetic versions, because they are more expensive.

From the release by the office of the Attorney General:

Allows dairies to line their waste impoundments with clay liners so long as those liners meet stringent EPA engineering requirements that, according to EPA, result in equal protection as the installation of synthetic liners. If clay liners result in contamination, which should be detected early, a synthetic liner will be required.


Added quotes from Block and Lorimer.

Quote for Lorimer originally omitted his name.