(Santa Fe, NM)— For the 9th year in a row, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) and allies successfully defeated every anti-environmental bill in the state legislature during the 2013 New Mexico Legislative session.
Of note, CVNM and allies defeated multiple attempts in both chambers to sunset the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC). Extending the WQCC is a great win for clean water in New Mexico. The WQCC is the only entity in New Mexico authorized to enact rules pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act or to set water quality standards. The Commission also approves variances for water quality regulations and hears appeals of water pollution permits.
CVNM actively advocated for or against over 80 bills for the good of New Mexico’s air, water and land. Few pro-conservation bills survived the session, which was characterized by consistent and forceful rejections of even the smallest steps forward to protect our natural heritage, including our drought-stricken water resources.
“It’s shocking that even in a time of extreme statewide drought, the Martinez administration and the Legislature refused to adopt even the most common-sense policies to protect our water and keep it clean,” said Sandy Buffett, CVNM Executive Director.
Members of the Martinez administration lobbied against several pro-conservation bills, including one that would have added a protection for our groundwater that is currently applied to all other natural resources in New Mexico. House Bill 259, sponsored by Representative Emily Kane, was crafted around the “polluter pays” principle and would have allowed the state Natural Resources Trustee to recover damages for the pollution of groundwater. Every reasonable protection is required for this most precious of resources, especially in New Mexico where 9 out of 10 citizens depend on groundwater for their drinking water. Unfortunately, the bill died in House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Another pro-conservation bill, House Bill 286, jointly sponsored by Representative Gail Chasey and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, failed on the House floor by only a few votes. House Bill 286 would have updated penalties for groundwater pollution in the 1935 New Mexico Oil and Gas Act for the first time in 78 years.
Protecting our groundwater is crucial, particularly when the Martinez administration is rolling back environmental safeguards that are already on the books. Just last month, the Oil Conservation Commission gutted the Pit Rule by siding with the oil and gas industry on amendments that weaken groundwater protections from oil and gas production wastes.
On the bright side, two bills that will better protect our precious water supplies from overuse by subdivisions passed both chambers and head to Governor Martinez’s desk. Senate Bill 479, sponsored by Senator Peter Wirth, closes a loophole that allows “double dipping,” where a landowner can sever water rights from their property and construct major subdivisions that rely entirely on domestic wells for their water supplies. Senate Bill 480, also sponsored by Senator Wirth, strengthens the State Engineer evaluation of water availability for new subdivisions by reducing the assessment threshold and makes subdivision water permits from the State Engineer mandatory.
Check our website at www.CVNM.org for full results on the more than 80 bills on our 2013 Legislative Agenda.
Conservation Voters New Mexico, a nonpartisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, works to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and our cherished way of life. Our mission is to make sensible conservation policies a top priority for elected officials, political candidates, and voters across the state.
Contact: Communications Manager Liliana Castillo, 505-992-8683