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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

NM agency considers new rule on fracked wastewater

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Tuesday, May 14, 2024   

What the extraction industry calls "produced water" is the subject of hearings this week in New Mexico.

The term applies to water coming out of the ground along with oil and gas, which can be toxic to humans, animals and the environment.

The New Mexico Environment Department has developed draft rules for the reuse of such water, while also creating safeguards.

Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, encouraged residents to support the rule.

"What this rule-making does is to prohibit the use of this produced water outside oil and gas operations," Feibelman explained. "It keeps it from being discharged in a way that would harm our surface waters and our groundwater."

A hearing by the Water Quality Control Commission at the State Capitol allows for public comments from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the rest of the week. Even though the rule is meant to enforce protections, some environmental opponents have rallied outside the State Capitol, arguing no produced water is safe and will always pose a threat to New Mexicans' health and safety.

The rule allows for research projects on the use of produced water, as long as there is no discharge to surface or groundwater, and formalizes the approach already used by the department. Feibelman says the Sierra Club opposes the use of produced water closed-loop industrial processes, in part because the state's environmental division did not provide any substantive testimony supporting its use.

"We want to make sure that these liquids that are dangerous and filled with toxic chemicals -- even in some cases naturally occurring radioactive material -- don't intersect with any of our waters," Feibelman emphasized.

A 2023 lawsuit claiming the state has failed to enforce pollution laws while also allowing more oil and gas production is currently making its way through the New Mexico courts.

Disclosure: The Sierra Club contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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