Attorney General Balderas Seeks Immediate Halt to Trump Administration’s Reckless Action Removing Protections for New Mexican Waterways

For Immediate Release:
May 19, 2020
Contact: Matt Baca — (505) 270-7148

Santa Fe, NM—Attorney General Balderas today joined a multistate coalition in filing a
motion for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s
unlawful final rule redefining the “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water
Act. The coalition argues that the rule should be enjoined pending the court’s decision
on the coalition’s lawsuit in order to prevent widespread harm to national water quality
and to avoid disruption to state and local water pollution control programs.
“New Mexico’s heritage, economy, and family safety relies on access to clean water in
our State,” said Attorney General Balderas. “This attack on one of our most valuable
and vulnerable resources is unacceptable, and I will continue to fight to protect New
Mexican families.”
The definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act is critical to
maintaining a strong federal foundation for water pollution control and water quality
protection that preserves the integrity of our waters. While the Clean Water Act has
resulted in dramatic improvements to water quality in the United States, its overriding
objective has not yet been achieved. Many of the nation’s waters fail to meet water
quality standards. The 2015 Clean Water Rule enacted during the Obama
Administration provided much-needed clarity and consistency in federal Clean Water
Act protections. It specifically includes within the scope of protected waters, the
headwaters of rivers and creeks as well as other non-traditionally navigable waters,
such as wetlands and ephemeral streams, which have significant impact on
downstream water quality.
Attorney General Balderas and the multistate coalition filed a lawsuit on May 1, 2020
challenging a Trump Administration final rule narrowing the definition of “waters of the
United States” to remove protections for all ephemeral streams, many wetlands, and
other waters that were previously covered under the Clean Water Act. Under the new
rule, more than half of all wetlands and at least 18 percent of all streams would be left
without federal protections. Western states like New Mexico would be even harder hit,
with 89 percent of all streams deprived of federal protections as a result of the region’s
dry climate.
In today’s filing, the coalition argues that a preliminary injunction is necessary to prevent
significant and irreparable harm to waterways across New Mexico and the rest of the
country. The Trump Administration’s “dirty water rule” weakens water quality protections
for numerous waterways, allowing pollution into formerly protected streams and
wetlands. In doing so, the rule threatens the habitat of many fish, birds, and other
animal species, and paves the way for the filling of wetlands, hamstringing a critical
instrument for flood mitigation. In order to protect the integrity of the Nation’s waters and
maintain programs that advance the Clean Water Act’s water quality objectives, it is
essential that this damaging final rule does not go into effect.
In filing the preliminary injunction, Attorney General Balderas joined the attorneys
general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia,
Washington and Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. The California State Water
Resources Control Board, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and
the City of New York also joined the coalition in filing the lawsuit.