State wants control of water discharge permits

New Mexico's Secretary of the Environment Department, Ron Curry, says state businesses and municipalities could save money if the state was to become the primary regulatory body governing water discharge permits.

Clay Holtzman, New Mexico Business Weekly

New Mexico's Secretary of the Environment Department, Ron Curry, says state businesses and municipalities could save money if the state was to become the primary regulatory body governing water discharge permits.

Curry spoke before members of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce this week about his intentions to make the state Environment Department, instead of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the chief enforcement and regulatory entity over the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The system oversees operations like businesses and municipalities, which have permits to discharge wastewater into surface waters, or rivers and lakes.

There are currently about 1,000 active discharge permits in the state, according to the Environment Department.

Because the EPA currently regulates the state in regard to discharges into surface waters, anyone found to be in violation of discharge standards must travel to the EPA's District 6 headquarters in Dallas to appeal any findings or fines.

That travel can lead to high costs, Curry says.

Of the five states that comprise the EPA's District 6, New Mexico is the only one that does not have primacy over its surface water discharge permit holders.

Curry says because his department takes the primary lead in all of its regulatory responsibilities, it makes sense that surface water discharge be included on that list.

"In every one of our programs ... New Mexico has primacy," Curry says. "It only makes sense to have primacy across the board."

Curry says he and the Environment Department's Bureau Chief, Marcy Leavitt, met with EPA's regional administrator this week and were told he supports their efforts.

The state Legislature would have to approve the of Environment Department's plans to become the primary agency in regulating surface water discharges, Curry says.

The Environment Department wants to assume control over primary regulatory and enforcement responsibilities by 2006.

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