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New Mexico Senate protects Water Quality Control Commission in dramatic vote on Senate floor

(Santa Fe, NM) – Today, the New Mexico Senate voted in support of New Mexico’s families and rich agricultural heritage when it voted down an amendment to strip the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) out of Senate Bill 163 Change Board & Commission Sunset Dates on an 18 to 23 vote. The amendment would have allowed the WQCC to expire or “sunset” on July 1 of this year. If SB 163 becomes law, the WQCC would be extended to 2019.

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.

“In these drought-stricken times, we have to protect every drop of water we have,” said Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of Conservation Voters New Mexico. “We thank the Senate for protecting the Water Quality Control Commission so it can continue to protect our water and in turn, our families and farms.”

Senator Phil Griego proposed the amendment, demanding that the WQCC be discussed when his Senate Bill 193 is heard. This bill dramatically weakens the WQCC by altering its composition by removing the health and technical expertise and stacking it towards industry-allied agencies. SB 193 would turn the WQCC’s focus from water quality to water quantity. However, the bill has not yet been heard in its first committee and if it were to fail to pass in the last weeks of the 2013 legislative session, the WQCC would sunset.

Conservation Voters New Mexico worked with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, the Office of the Attorney General and Southwest Environmental Center to ensure the security of our precious water resources by protecting the WQCC.

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