New Mexico Supreme Court upholds climate rules
Versions of the same intra-governmental political battles set to play out at the federal level over greenhouse gas regulations are already playing out at the state level — and in some pretty unlikely places.
In New Mexico, where a newly-elected Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is trying aggressive steps to roll back climate regulations approved during outgoing Gov. Bill Richarson's watch, challenges have met stiff opposition, most recently in the state's supreme court.
On January 4, in one of her first acts as governor, the Tea Party-backed Martinez removed all members of the state's Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) for their stance on climate regulation — and because the EIB serves at the governor's pleasure, she had every right to do so. But it was when Martinez tried to block all pending state regulations the board had passed by preventing them from being published in the state register that the New Mexico Supreme Court got involved.
Last week, responding to a legal action filed by New Mexico-based New Energy Economy, the Supreme Court ordered the immediate publication of the greenhouse gas rules.
“No one is above the law,” Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels said last Wednesday morning as he announced the court’s decision to reinstate two environmental regulations that the governor had blocked.
In early November and again in December, New Mexico regulators enacted rules paving the way for a regional cap and trade program and approved a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 3% per year from 2010 levels.
“Pretty much any attorney in that position would know that this suppression was illegal,” said New Energy Economy executive director Mariel Nanasi in an email to CleanTechnica. Gov. Martinez was the District Attorney for New Mexico's Third District for eleven years.
Gov. Martinez says her administration had every intention of publishing the pending regulations, they just wanted to weigh the economic impact on New Mexico businesses before implementing them.
"Governor Martinez attempted an end run around the Constitution at the request of major polluters," said Bruce Frederick, staff attorney from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center who filed the lawsuit on behalf of New Energy Economy. "Her attempt to prevent the carbon pollution rule from becoming a valid state law is highly illegal and cannot be tolerated in a democratic society."
Although they are now published, actually implementing them will be the responsibility of a Martinez administration not real eager to do so.
Gov. Martinez has appointed petroleum engineer F. David Martin as the New Mexico Secretary of the Environment and Harrison Schmitt as the Secretary of Energy. Martin is an adjunct professor of petroleum engineer at New Mexico specializing in "enhanced recovery"; Schmitt is a retired astronaut and former U.S. Senator who has said the environmental movement is led by communists and that global warming is a hoax designed to increase government control over people's lives.
Photo: Office of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez