By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A state water panel is close to settling a dispute over the regulation of waste from New Mexico's $2.6 billion dairy industry.

The Water Quality Control Commission will consider a settlement brokered by state attorneys, dairy farmers and environmentalists during a hearing Wednesday in Santa Fe.

The dairy rule was approved by the commission last year in the final month of former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. It was meant to protect New Mexico's groundwater from dairy discharges.

The industry appealed, and months of negotiations ensued.

State officials tout the settlement as a way to protect water while allowing dairies flexibility with day-to-day operations.

Under the settlement, monitoring wells would have to be installed and synthetic liners would be required for any new or leaking waste impoundments.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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