Campaign update: Copper Rule to receive scrutiny of Supreme Court
Make sure Attorney General Hector Balderas knows that he has the
In September 2013, the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) adopted a new copper mining rule, known as the Copper Rule.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and our allies at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) believe that the rules are in direct conflict with the state Water Quality Act which requires polluters to prevent groundwater contamination during their operations.
NMELC appealed the rule in the courts. After the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the recently adopted copper mine rule, NMELC requested that the New Mexico Supreme Court review the decision and the rule. The Supreme Court has agreed to a review and a decision is expected in mid to late 2016.
As written, the Copper Rule would give mining interests the legally protected right to violate clean water standards at their dump sites. The rule was effectively written by lobbyists for global copper mining corporation Freeport-McMoRan (owner of all three copper mining complexes in New Mexico) over the objections of both current and former Environment Department technical staff.
The rules also set a dangerous precedent, paving the way for other industries to demand similar rollbacks in water quality safeguards.
History of the copper rule
In 2009, the legislature approved amendments to the Water Quality Act requiring the Environment Department to set new rules for the dairy industry and copper mines.
For 9 months in 2011, citizens, environmental groups and mining industry officials held several meetings to develop a rule. A draft rule based on the group’s input was distributed to all the stakeholders for comments in August 2011. The rule that NMED ended up adopting includes language very similar to the comments Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold had submitted.
In the version NMED submitted to the WQCC, NMED upper-level managers ignored the recommendations of its own technical staff and many stakeholders from its own Copper Rule Advisory Committee, and instead adopted the mining industry’s draft rules.
CVNM members and supporters like you signed over 650 petition signatures asking the WQCC to protect our water with a strong copper mining rule. WQCC staff said that many public comments came pouring in from all corners of the state.
Sign up for our email list at CVNM.org for updates on the Copper Rule decision as soon as they’re available!