On Tuesday, New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Cabinet Secretary James Kenney issued the following statement after the state joined other states in asking a federal court to prevent the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule from taking effect:
“We will not allow a rule to take effect this summer that will devastate New Mexico’s scarce and limited water resources,” Secretary Kenney said. “When it comes to protecting our surface waters, I am ready to take this fight to the courts and seek a preliminary injunction with other states. New Mexico is arguably the state with the most to lose, and my Department will do whatever it takes to prevail in protecting our most precious resource.”
In 2019 the federal government proposed revisions to the WOTUS rule, which defines waters that receive protections under the federal Clean Water Act. The rule was finalized in April and is scheduled to go into effect on June 22, 2020. On May 1, 2020, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, with support from NMED, officially joined 16 other states, the City of New York and the District of Columbia in suing the federal government over the rule. On May 19, the multi-state coalition asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect nationwide while litigation on the rule’s merits continues.
If the new rule takes effect in New Mexico, at least 89 percent of the state’s rivers and streams and approximately 40 percent of the state’s wetlands would lose federal protection from pollution. This federal rollback of environmental protections for streams and wetlands and the resulting reductions in water quality will be devastating to wildlife and humans who are dependent on these waters for drinking water as well as cultural, recreational and economic purposes.
In April 2019, NMED submitted comments on the proposed rule. Earlier this week as part of the Attorney General’s lawsuit, NMED Water Protection Division Director Rebecca Roose provided a declaration to the court.