An End to the Copper-Rule Silliness?


Tomorrow, we can hope, will mark the beginning of the end of the fight over the “copper rule.”

In 2013, the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, acting under 2009 legislation passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Democratic governor, approved regulations governing groundwater at copper mines.

The mining industry praised commissioners for establishing “strict, consistent, clear, and comprehensive design, operational and closure requirements for protecting the quality of ground water impacted by copper mining operations today and after operations cease.” Radical eco-activists squealed that the regulations were inadequate, “an abdication of the state’s responsibility to protect groundwater — and a move to hand over the public’s water to private companies.”

Predictably, the battle made its way to court. But last year, appellants — including Ted Turner, the Gila Resources Information Project and the attorney general’s office — were dealt a severe blow by the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Judges Jonathan B. Sutin, Michael E. Vigil, and Linda M. Vanzi ruled that copper-rule conspiracy theorists had “not demonstrated that the [rule] provides any basis for reversal. We conclude that Appellants’ attacks on the Commission’s findings as unsupported by sufficient evidence or as being contrary to law do not warrant reversal.”

Now, it’s time for the state’s notoriously left-leaning High Court to weigh in. For the sake of the state’s economy and the workers who owe their livelihoods to the enormous horde of copper resources in Grant County, let’s hope that a majority of justices agree with Sutin, Vigil, and Vanzi.