Press Release New Mexico: State Violates Dairy Rule Meetings Process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  Wednesday May 14, 2014

Contacts:

Jon Block, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Environmental Law Center  (505) 989-9022                   Dan Lorimier, Conservation Coordinator, Rio Grande Chapter Sierra Club (575) 740-2927 Michael Jensen, Middle Rio Grande Projects Director, Amigos Bravos (505) 362-1063       Danielle Diamond, Executive Director, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (815) 403-0278

NM ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT VIOLATES ADVISORY COMMITTEE PROCESS FOR         DAIRY RULE MEETINGS

NMED and industry agree to separate meetings excluding environmental and community groups

Santa Fe – In a move that may violate New Mexico law, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) plans to hold closed door meetings with dairy industry groups who have petitioned the Martinez administration to withdraw pollution safeguards for the protection of drinking water.

Instead of following legal requirements, NMED has announced plans to hold separate exclusive Advisory Committee meetings with the dairy industry and the Citizen Coalition of environmental and community groups that support the current dairy rules.

In a letter delivered today to NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn, the Citizen Coalition has informed Mr. Flynn of the legal requirements his agency is ignoring.

“This is not an Advisory Committee”, said Bill Olson, former Bureau Chief of NMED’s Groundwater Quality Bureau.  “In my 28 years of state rule-making experience, I have never seen a private advisory committee process like this that excludes members from having a free and open discussion of ideas and proposed rules”.

State law explicitly requires that NMED assemble an Advisory Committee, consisting of all stakeholders, whenever there is a proposal to amend regulations under the Water Quality Act, which protects New Mexico’s precious water resources.

The NMED, dairy industry representatives, and representatives of the Coalition have been meeting and discussing the activities of a Dairy Rule Advisory Committee for several months in order to find dates when all members could meet.

“If the NMED wanted to meet separately with the dairy industry, which they have been doing for well over a year anyway, they didn’t need to organize this sham Advisory Group,” said Dan Lorimier of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter and who participated in months of stakeholder meetings in 2009 that led to the first dairy rule.  “This is another example of the Environment Department privatizing what should be a public dialogue and it highlights the Governor’s practice of allowing her agencies to make back-room deals with her corporate cronies.”

“This new twist is especially disturbing because all of the stakeholders – NMED, the dairy industry, and the Citizen Coalition – stipulated in a settlement in 2011 to the court and the Water Quality Control Commission that we agreed with the amended dairy rule that the WQCC then approved,” said Jon Block, staff attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which represents the Citizen Coalition.  “There should be no discussion of gutting the rules to which all parties agreed”.

The NMED has told Coalition members that it doesn’t want all the Advisory Group members in the same room because they fear an adversarial process.

“We all sat together for many months in 2009, and in settlement talks in 2011, and managed to draft a fair compromise on the dairy rule,” said Michael Jensen of Amigos Bravos, who also participated in the earlier meetings.  “Of course, Governor Martinez tried to prevent the first rule from going into effect and then the dairy industry went to court to block it, so we ended up having the settlement talks and a second version of the rule.  And here we are again.”

The Citizen Coalition intends to defend the current dairy rules and honor its agreement to the settlement reached in 2011 and the rule making process established by the WQCC.

“We will not endorse exclusive, private meetings such as those proposed by the NMED and accepted by the dairy industry,” said Block.  “We will follow the lawful, public process the Legislature intended when it required that NMED obtain stakeholder advice in formulating regulations that utilize the best scientific and technical means for preventing pollution by the dairy and other industries in New Mexico”.

The NMED halted the issuance of dairy permits when the Legislature was voting on an industry-sponsored bill to require dairy and copper industry-specific pollution prevention rules.  Most dairies in New Mexico are operating on long-expired permits that do not meet current requirements and existing water protection rules remain unenforced while the dairy industry continues efforts to weaken the regulations they asked for in the first place.

“It is unfortunate that while New Mexico’s ground water supply continues to be polluted by industrial dairies, NMED will be hosting discussions about the dairy industry’s proposal to gut existing protections essentially behind closed doors,” said Danielle Diamond, Executive Director of the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

STATUTES

Chapter 9, Executive Department; Article 1, Executive Reorganization Act; Section 9-1-9; Creation of advisory committees …

Chapter 9, Executive Department; Article 7A, Environment Department; Section 9-7A-10; Advisory committees.

 

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