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Sierra Club: State Not Enforcing "Dairy Rule" During Challenge

PHOTO: Photo courtesy U-S-D-A.
PHOTO: Photo courtesy U-S-D-A.
March 25, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. - The Sierra Club is warning that challenges to the state's "Dairy Rule" could set environmental protections for groundwater back 20 years. Dan Lorimier, conservation coordinator, Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the State Environment Department has suspended enforcement of the Dairy Rule while the dairy industry challenges the regulations, which add greater protections against groundwater pollution.

"They basically want to do away with all of the comprehensive safeguards in the rule, and follow the copper industry by being allowed to pollute under their property," Lorimier said.

The Copper Mine Rule, adopted by the State Water Quality Control Commission last year, limits pollution controls for the lands under copper mines, Lorimier explained. The Environment Department has defended that rule, saying it does more to protect groundwater than previous rules did.

Lorimier said the Dairy Rule requires monitoring wells, better liners for the waste-containment facilities known as lagoons, and waste-management plans for fields used to dispose of untreated waste. He charged that the dairy industry basically wants the rule amended to remove the protections it agreed to as part of a collaborative process that led to the Dairy Rule's implementation about a year ago.

"It is huge. Two thirds of the of the dairies, before the new Dairy Rule was put in place, were polluting the groundwater and having to formulate mitigation plans for how to fix that," Lorimier said.

Lorimier added that Gov. Susana Martinez's administration appears to be putting the needs of business and industry ahead of protecting natural resources.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM