Santa Fe opposes EPA proposed rule change - Albuquerque Journal

Santa Fe opposes EPA proposed rule change

The city of Santa Fe is voicing its opposition to a proposed rule change by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would do away with protections of waterways against pollutants adopted in 2015, and it wants you to do the same.

A resolution objecting to an EPA proposal that would change the definition of “Waters of the United States” already has enough sponsors for City Council approval. It passed the city’s Finance Committee without comment on Monday and is scheduled for City Council approval on March 27.

“Should the proposed rule changes go into effect, the Santa Fe River and its watershed, including all ephemeral tributaries and arroyos, Nichols and McClure reservoirs, ground water, wastewater treating facility, public infrastructure, private property and the Rio Grande could lose federal protections,” the fiscal impact report for the resolution states.

The resolution itself expresses support for expanding the definition of “tributary” and to “emphasize the importance of the impact of ephemeral flows to the health and welfare of the countries (sic) water system.” It also encourages members of the public to file objections to the proposed changes before the end of the 60-day public comment period on April 15.

In a December news release, the EPA said the change “would result in significant cost savings, protect the nation’s navigable waters, help sustain economic growth, and reduce barriers to business development.” It goes on to say that the proposal is the second step in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of Waters of the United States to make it consistent with an executive order President Trump issued during his second month in office.

Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said that the “simplier and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”

A fact sheet put out by the EPA says that the rule adopted under the Obama administration in 2015 “may have greatly expanded Washington’s control over local land use decisions.”

But the city’s resolution, sponsored by Mayor Alan Webber and five of the eight city councilors, says the city’s drinking water and acequia systems already face significant impacts from climate change, stormwater runoff, toxic chemicals, waste and illegal dumping. It says protections of water sources should be strengthened, not lessened.

The resolutions says that ephemeral streams from Los Alamos National Laboratory drain into the Rio Grande upstream from Santa Fe would not be protected, imperiling one of the city’s sources of drinking water.

Also on Monday, the Finance Committee approved a resolution to apply for refinancing of the 65-acre Midtown Campus, the former site of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, with the state Department of Finance and Administration.

According to city documents, refinancing the bond the city took out when it bought the property in 2009 would save the city between $430,000 and $470,000 per year for the first 17 years. The term of the bond would be extended by three years to 2039.

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