The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a rule related to the state’s regulation of groundwater beneath copper mines last fall. There’s no saying exactly when the court, which heard the case at the end of September, will issue its opinion. But it could be this year. This comes as the price of copper is on the rise after two years of declines. At the end of last year, the metal rallied—and some analysts expect it to do well in 2017.
An environmental law firm is opposition to the rule regulating the groundwater at copper mines to the state Supreme Court. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center announced Monday afternoon that they filed a brief with the New Mexico Supreme Court calling on the court to set aside the controversial rule. The NMELC filed the brief on behalf of Gila Resources Information Project (GRIP), Amigos Bravos and Turner Ranch Properties, L.P. The brief says that the Copper Rule adopted by the Water Quality Control Commission is in violation of state law, something the New Mexico Environment Department has denied. “The Rule violates the Water Quality Act because it imposes no limit on the magnitude, extent, or duration of the pollution discharged by copper mines,” says, NMELC Executive Director and lead attorney on the case. “The Act mandates that New Mexico’s ground water be protected.
The state’s highest court will review New Mexico’s controversial guidelines to copper mining. Opponents of the copper rule argue that it violates the state’s clean water laws, which say that groundwater with a present or foreseeable future use must be protected from pollution. The copper rule, adopted in 2013, allows groundwater within a “capture zone” of a copper mine to be polluted above state-regulated levels. Douglas Meiklejohn, an attorney for the four organizations and an individual asking for a legal review of the copper rule, notes that nine out of 10 New Mexicans get their drinking water from groundwater. “This allows the writing off of an enormous amount of groundwater and allows it to be polluted,” Meiklejohn said of the copper rule.
Over the weekend, New Mexico Political Report’s senior reporter Joey Peters hit the small screen to discuss several local and regional issues. Peters appeared as a panelist on New Mexico in Focus, a local public affairs program that airs weekly on New Mexico PBS. He joined host Gene Grant, Albuquerque attorney Laura Sanchez-Rivet, Albuquerque Free Press associate editor Dennis Domrzalski and Vox Optima founder Merritt Allen to talk about several burning issues in New Mexico. The program kicked off with a discussion of the controversial Santolina planned community. The Bernalillo County Commission voted to authorize the Santolina master plan last week.