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On the rundown; a new poll has Americans turning thumbs down on Trump’s hurricane response; changes in the works to North Carolina’s election law; a move to protect Central California wilderness; and making federal buildings “bird friendly”

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Last Day to Comment on Proposed EPA Changes to Clean Water Rule

New Mexico conservation groups are worried about the state's drinking-water supplies if the Trump administration scraps the 2015 Clean Water Rule. (env.nm.gov/water)
New Mexico conservation groups are worried about the state's drinking-water supplies if the Trump administration scraps the 2015 Clean Water Rule. (env.nm.gov/water)
September 27, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Today is the final day for comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to repeal the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the U.S.

More than 1 million people submitted comments to the EPA during the Obama administration as it worked to close loopholes in the federal Clean Water Act, said Sanders Moore, director of the group Environment New Mexico, with 87 percent in favor of doing so. If regulations are rolled back, she said, 95,000 miles of streams in New Mexico will be at risk for pollution.

"That's also the drinking water for more than 280,000 New Mexicans across the state," she said, "so, we've seen our waterways at risk and the Clean Water Rule closed those loopholes in an effort to protect our waterways again."

President Trump signed an order earlier this year that states, "It is in the national interest to ensure that the nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth."

The public still can submit comments online at regulations.gov until the end of the day today.

Before finalizing the Clean Water Rule in 2015, the EPA held more than 400 public meetings across the country, only to have the new rule halted by the courts before it could take effect, challenged by farm and business interests. Moore said she believes that as climate change alters long-term rainfall patterns in New Mexico, streams and wetlands will need as much protection as they can get.

"The Southwest in particular is a very arid part of the country," she said, "so I think it's safe to say that whatever water we do have, we need to protect the quality of, to ensure that we do have drinking water supplies for future generations."

EPA Administrator Scott Pruit has said he will introduce a new rule-making process by the end of this year or early 2018. For now, conservation groups have predicted, small towns and rural areas where people rely on private wells or lack pollution-detection resources will be the hardest hit by rolling back the rule.

Information about the rule is online at epa.gov/wotus-rule.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM