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Letters to Editor

This category will hold letters to the editor, as requested by at least one Beat reader. This editor agrees that letters to the editor should be separate from editorials. Letters to the editor may not reflect the opinions of the editor.

Peter Riva, in his June 14 article, Secrets and FACT of CO2, in the last sentence in the next-to-last paragraph, stated that CO2 was now 2% of the atmosphere, which would be 20,000 parts per million, ppm.

I was under the impression that the CO2 level was close to 400 ppm. Could Mr. Rivas please cite the source for his 2% claim?

Thank you,
Peter Burrows

As Sheriff of Otero County, I would like to share with you the impact the recent border crisis has had on our community in Otero County as well as the impact the deployment of 6 New Mexico State Police Officers from our community to assist the Albuquerque Police Department.

Otero County is dealing with a huge influx in drugs coming into Otero County via 2 main drug smuggling corridors. With the removal of the National Guard Troops from our southern border, the United States Border Patrol Check points closing on March 25, 2019, and reallocation of the New Mexico State Police, crime is on the rise in Otero County. We at the Otero County Sheriff’s Office have redirected all of our unobligated patrol efforts to highway interdiction on US 54 and US 70.

Dear New Mexicans,
I would like to share with you a conflict our household is having with PNM. There are three issues that need to be addressed.

1. Incorrect billing
We recently found out that PNM has been charging us commercial rates for our private residence for the past 16 years. We only discovered this when we contracted to have solar panels placed on our studio in 2018. The solar company told us that PNM was charging us rate class 2A commercial rates and that we should be charged rate class 1A residential rates. We are a residential home on a residential lot in a residential neighborhood.

Dear Editor:

The Washington Pundit ran a headline that read as follows” New Mexico Passes Law To Execute Babies at Birth. It is a shame that this is what the rest of our nation has as a picture of our state. The bill that they are referring to is HB 51.

This bill if it becomes law will keep abortions legal through the entire nine month pregnancy. When the House of Representatives voted on this bill it was a 40-29 vote. The votes are recorded at nmlegis.gov if you would like to look at the record. The most notable of those voting for this bill is the Governors representative, but not Grant County’s, Rudy Martinez.

We have some exciting news to share. New Mexico State Senator Gabriel Ramos and New Mexico Lt. Governor Howie Morales are working to secure state dollars to help fund the Tour of the Gila Bicycle Race. This will be a great boost to our event, to our local economy and to our state’s economy, however we need your help. Please copy and paste the message below and then email it to the New Mexico State Senators listed below. We have also added phone numbers for each of the State Senators so you can call them if you wish. It is important that they hear from you. Your voice is what will help us get this financial assistance. Please call or send an email to these State Senators ASAP.

Thank you,
Jack Brennan
Tour of the Gila Race Director

Dear Editor,

I read the letter from Mr. de Saillan posted on your editorial page this evening and noticed a number of statements that do not “square up” historically, and while I appreciate his optimism on a mining company’s ability to obtain a variance, there are glaring problems with that logic that the casual observer will not know. While I am a copper mine employee, I am writing to you and your readers as a resident of Grant County who cares that my community know the facts and not as a representative of the mining company. I would ask your readers to consider the following points.

Indeed, the legislature knew when it adopted the New Mexico Water Quality Act in 1978 that the beneficial activities of copper mining impact water quality such that large areas within the mine operation will not meet standards. It is impossible for a typical open pit copper mine to meet drinking water standards within an open pit, for example, because of the chemistry of the naturally-occurring minerals within the typical ore body. This was a commonly known fact in 1978 because the copper mines had been operating since the early 1900s and water quality conditions were well known. The legislature clearly and wisely used the language they did in the current law because these water quality impacts already existed, and they did not want to impose a new law that would place these beneficial activities and legal businesses in violation of the law. Instead they opted to write the law to prevent these beneficial activities from causing impairment of the water quality of other users. That is exactly why they used the term, which I understand was chosen by the New Mexico State Engineer at the time, compliance with standards shall be measured “at any place of withdrawal of water for present or reasonably foreseeable future use.” It was clearly understood then that the open pit of a copper mine, or water underneath a tailing dam would not be suitable for a drinking water supply and therefore not “a place of withdrawal of water for present or reasonably foreseeable future use.” But the mines were required to contain these impacts within a reasonable distance of mine operations, and that is exactly what has been accomplished for decades around the mines.

The term the legislature adopted was not ambiguous at that time because permits were issued to operating copper mines even though there were exceedances of groundwater standards within the mine area. If this condition did not meet the intent of the law, then the New Mexico Environment Department would have been required to deny the discharge permit applications. Not only were they issued, but they continued to be re-issued for decades under similar circumstances. The intent was clearly not to require mines to do the impossible – meet drinking water standards within the mine facility, but to ensure that the contamination would not migrate significantly away from the mines.

Proponents of House Bill 220 make exaggerated claims that the Rules for Copper Mine Facilities (Copper Rules) caused “relax standards and mines can pollute as much as they want.” This is simply not true. The Copper Rules are a comprehensive set of regulations and required practices that enhance groundwater protection within and around the copper mines. They ensure that water resources are protected.

Mr. de Saillan stated that the variance option was provided to accommodate industries that could not meet standards. If this were true, then all the permits originally issued and subsequently renewed, would have required variances, but none of them required variances. The early permits were issued with no variance in spite of the fact that water quality standards were already exceeded at the mines.

The concept of utilizing a variance for the purpose Mr. de Saillan described is a relatively recent proposal that was demanded of the mines within the last 10 years due to a desire to interpret the law differently during a particular administration. Because the mines do their level best to work with regulators, there were a few variances requested and granted as Mr. de Saillan points out for some very basic permit changes that really should have been easy to deal with at the New Mexico Environment Department level rather than in front of the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission. It basically turned a decision that should have been granted in 3 months into a decision that had to be drug out for over a year. That kind of permitting process will not be workable and will create a quagmire of unending appearances before the commission. Variances are not needed to allow public interaction and comment either. That opportunity exists in the regulation for most of the discharge permitting that is needed at a copper mine.

Finally, Mr. de Saillan’s letter does not answer the biggest problem of all. The Water Quality Control Commission can only grant a variance from a regulation adopted by the Commission. There is no provision in the law for them to grant a variance from the statute. By changing the statute to the language proposed in House Bill 220, the mines would now have to seek a variance from the statute which is not allowed. It’s a “Catch 22.” It is not a return to “life before the Copper Rules,” as several have claimed. No, in fact, the legislature would be putting the copper mines in an impossible situation based on the plain language of the law. Therefore, it is a real possibility that permits will be denied that the mines rely upon to operate.

Mr. de Saillans claims that House Bill 255 is needed to eliminate a “risky” form of financial assurance. This form of financial assurance has not been risky for New Mexico mines. There have been no failures of this form of financial assurance for a New Mexico mine. The proponents of this bill are trying to alarm our community and the legislature citing examples where no financial assurance existed. So, it is not even comparable to the legitimate use of this instrument which requires rigorous quarterly financial testing of the guarantor (which by the way has to be a legally separate entity from the company for which the guarantee is provided). This form of financial assurance has functioned exactly as it was intended. It has already been tested and where necessary, replacement financial assurance was provided. That is an example of a success, not a failure. Allowing this form of financial assurance is a balanced approach that encourages business investment in our state while still being protective and ensuring reclamation liabilities are fully covered. I suppose that is why the federal EPA allows it as a form of financial assurance. Proponents of this bill don’t talk about the fact that two prior Democrat administrations have committed to New Mexico mines that this form of financial assurance will be an allowable instrument. If a state keeps changing the rules to operate in the state and to back out of their commitments of the agreements after the fact – i.e., after the business met its part of the agreement – why would a business continue to invest and grow its business in that state?

For all of these reasons, speaking only for myself as a resident of Grant County, I ask you and your readers to oppose and ask county and state representatives to oppose House Bills 220 and 255.

Thomas (Tom) L. Shelley is a resident of Grant County, a professional civil engineer, rancher, Army veteran and a copper mine employee.

The quality of our groundwater is important to all of us. Two bills currently before the Legislature, House Bill 220 and House Bill 255, would help to protect groundwater quality at mining operations and help to ensure proper mine reclamation. Importantly, neither of these bills would inhibit or restrain mining operations in Grant County or elsewhere in New Mexico.

The first bill, HB 220, would clarify an ambiguous and confusing provision in the New Mexico Water Quality Act, one that has resulted in extensive litigation, yet remains elusively unclear. The bill would clarify that the effect of pollution on groundwater is determined where the pollution enters groundwater, which is exactly how the Environment Department interpreted and implemented the Water Quality Act for decades. That changed – for copper mines – in 2013 when the Martinez Administration adopted the Copper Mine Rule. The rule allows copper mines to pollute groundwater in excess of groundwater quality standards over large areas of the mine, without even monitoring groundwater quality. And the mine can do so without the need for a variance.

Dear Editor:

As we approach the halfway point of the 2019 legislative session, more than 1,200 bills have been introduced but the Cannabis Regulation Act, HB356, is getting more attention than most.

The Association of Commerce and Industry has not taken a position regarding legalization of adult cannabis use but we cannot support the Cannabis Regulation Act as it is written due to serious concerns over workplace safety. ACI testified against the bill’s incomplete language at a House Health and Human Services Committee hearing on Saturday, along with other business groups. We continue to work with the bill sponsors to get workplace protections added to the bill.

The bill would legalize cannabis as a recreational drug by eliminating the penalties associated with it. However, the current language does not allow employers to create a safe environment and it restricts their ability to enforce drug-free workplace policies.

This would create challenges for employers who value drug-free and safe workplaces because they would not be able to enforce workplace safety rules. Other states have introduced language that can protect employees and employers.

Jobs Package Bills Update
This year, ACI is supporting an entire armada of bills that focus on job creation and quality-of-life measures in the state. Our New Mexico’s Jobs Package bills support economic development, workforce training and more.

A bi-partisan tax reform bill, SB129, is moving through the committee process this week. On Monday, a committee substitution was given a Do Pass recommendation by the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. The bill is designed to improve fairness and transparency in tax disputes.

All of the Jobs Package bills have been heard in committees and are moving through the legislative process.

We are, however, paying close attention to several other measures that can impact the state’s business community, including efforts to raise the minimum wage and HB206, the environmental review act.

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