RAPID/Geothermal/New Mexico/Water Quality

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New Mexico Geothermal Water Quality Assessment(14-NM)

Developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, NPDES permitting, underground injection control, 401 water quality certification, and groundwater discharge.

Developers must comply with New Mexico’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Management (NPS) Program if their project will impact priority watersheds or impaired waters. The NPS program helps New Mexico meet water quality standards and achieve the goals of the Clean Water Act. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) is the lead agency for developing, implementing, and coordinating the NPS Management Program. NMED’s State Water Quality Bureau establishes total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for priority watersheds and impaired waters. TMDLs establish separate maximum acceptable loads for nonpoint sources of pollution. Developers are required to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the project; which may be structural or non-structural.

Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. New Mexico has been grated authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. New Mexico’s role in the NPDES process is to ensure that NPDES-permitted projects comply with state water quality standards outlined in NMAC 20.6.4 through NMED. The EPA will develop a draft NPDES permit for the project then give it to NMED for review to ensure compliance with state water quality standards. If NMED approves the permit, then a Final Certification will be issued to the developer. NMAC

New Mexico does not have authority to issue construction stormwater permits under NPDES. However, the Surface Water Quality Bureau, within NMED, assists the EPA in the regulation of stormwater discharges by performing inspections on behalf of the EPA and serving as the local point of contact for providing information to operators and other agencies regarding the federal regulatory program.

Developers must obtain an Underground Injection Control (UIC) Permit from NMED if their project will required the establishment of an injection well. The UIC Permit process in New Mexico is implemented by NMED’s Groundwater Quality Bureau (GWQB) and the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Oil Conservation Division (OCD) under NMAC and NMAC OCD is the lead agency in regulating geothermal injection wells. Geothermal Wells are classified as Class V wells for UIC purposes. Developers must apply for a UIC Permit with OCD on forms provided by OCD’s Environment Division. Developers will be required to provide public notice of the application and proof of such notice. If the application is approved, then OCD will include permit provisions for operation, maintenance, and reporting. NMAC

Developers requiring a Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers are required to obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the state of New Mexico. NMED may issue or deny 401 Water Quality Certifications for dredge and fill activities. NMS 74-6-4. NMED must ensure that the project will comply with state water quality standards, including the antidegradation policy, and applicable statewide water quality management plans. Developers must apply for 401 Water Quality Certification with NMED on forms provided by the Department. NMED may determine that a public hearing is required for the application. NMAC

Developers must obtain a Groundwater Discharge Permit from NMED if their project may cause or allow discharges into groundwater. Developers will be required to comply with the restrictions contained in NMAC 20.6.2. Certain discharges are exempt from Groundwater Discharge Permit requirements, such discharges are listed in NMAC Developers must create a Discharge Plan and submit it to NMED for review. The Discharge Plan will set forth in detail the methods or techniques the developer intends to use or processes expected to naturally occur that will ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. NMAC Following issuance of the permit, developers are required to comply with all terms and conditions contained within it.

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Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.