April 2016

Op-Ed: Water in New Mexico

Sanders Moore

Clean water is essential to New Mexicans’ health, happiness and economic vitality.

From the San Juan to the Río Grande, rivers provide us with drinking water. When that water is polluted, even at relatively low levels, we increase our risk of liver disease, kidney disease and even cancer. All of us are affected by unhealthy water quality.

Because clean water is so essential to our families’ health, recreational opportunities and way of life, GreenLatinos, Environment New Mexico and a host of allies celebrated the Obama administration’s new Clean Water Rule, which was announced last May and will restore federal protection to more than 88 percent of New Mexico’s streams, sources of drinking water to more than 280,000 New Mexicans.

For the past decade, these New Mexico streams, along with streams that feed drinking-water sources for one in three Americans, lacked clear protections under the nation’s Clean Water Act because of Supreme Court decisions issued in 2001 and 2006.

These polluter-driven court rulings meant that, all too often, developers could build over our wetlands, oil companies could dump into our streams, and the federal government couldn’t stop them. In fact, according to an analysis by The New York Times, over a four-year period following the court decisions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to drop 1,500 cases against polluters who were dumping into or otherwise harming these waters.

A broad coalition of clean-water advocates, farmers, mayors, health professionals and small businesses, such as brewers and outdoor outfitters, heralded the rule.

Americans across the country submitted more than 800,000 comments in support. And a recent poll showed that 80 percent of Americans favored it. Particularly important in New Mexico, Latino support for the Clean Water Rule is especially high. The 2012 Sierra Club and National Council of La Raza poll found that 92 percent of Latino voters agree that we have “a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creations on this earth—the wilderness and forests, the oceans, lakes and rivers.”

The only opponents to the final Clean Water Rule are the same polluting interests that poked holes in the Clean Water Act in the first place. Agribusinesses, oil and gas companies, developers and other polluters have waged a bitter campaign in Congress and the courts to block restored protections to our streams and wetlands.

For restored clean-water protections to make it across the finish line, we’ll need both of our senators, who’ve stood up against the polluters every single time, to continue to be forceful champions for clean water. The quantity and the quality of the water that sustains us is simply too precious to squander.

Sanders Moore is the state director of Environment New Mexico, a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. Together with its national federation, Environment America, Environment New Mexico has been working to restore Clean Water Act protections for a decade. Moore has a master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from the Vermont Law School and a bachelor’s degree in Government from Wesleyan University.

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