By Susan Montoya Bryan
An environmental law group is raising questions about the handling of public documents as it pushes forward with two lawsuits over how Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration is handling new rules for greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater pollution.
An official at the State Records Center crossed out the filing dates on the greenhouse gas and groundwater rules after the administration requested their publication in the State Register be halted. Without publication, the rules cannot become effective.
Even though it’s standard practice at the record center to cross out filing dates on rules that are pulled back, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center contends all rules filed with the records center are official public documents, and it is inappropriate — and perhaps illegal — to redact the stamp showing the date and time the rules were officially filed.
“It’s a little distressing that people are so casual about these things. It’s an official filing. It’s not a casual thing,” Bruce Frederick, a staff attorney with the law center, said Friday. “The mechanisms of law start with that filing date. Your right to appeal starts running as of that date.”
John Martinez, the director of the Administrative Law Division at the records center, argued that crossing out the filing dates on canceled rules is a matter of clarity for record keeping. Agencies that receive copies of the filed rules are also asked to return them for the same reason.
“We want it to be clear to everyone that the rule filing was canceled and not published,” Martinez told the Associated Press.
Publication of the greenhouse gas emissions rules and groundwater regulations governing discharges by dairies are at the heart of two lawsuits the New Mexico Environmental Law Center filed this week on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups.
The groups contend that Gov. Martinez’s administration is illegally stopping the newly approved rules from taking effect.
After much debate, the rules were approved last month by state regulatory panels under former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration and were to be published in the register this week.
Moments after Susana Martinez took office Jan. 1, the Republican issued an executive order to suspend all pending and proposed regulations for 90 days while they are reviewed by a task force.
The Governor’s Office maintains that the emissions and dairy rules fall under the order.
The state Supreme Court has scheduled a Jan. 26 hearing in the emissions case. A hearing hasn’t been scheduled on the dairy rules.