High Country News: New Mexico Caps Again

December 2010

A New Mexico regulatory board took another stand against climate change last week, approving its second set of greenhouse gas rules in just over a month. The first round, OK’d by the state’s Environmental Improvement Board in November, laid the groundwork for New Mexico’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade program, and require major polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent a year starting in 2012. The second rule will cap (no trading involved) carbon dioxide emissions from the state’s big polluters and require 3 percent cuts each year starting in 2013. It’s a back-up plan, of sorts, to the regional initiative. If that program moves ahead as planned, the state-only rule will sunset. If not, New Mexico polluters will still have to cut their carbon spewage.

That is, if either rule holds up. Legal wrangling over the state cap began a couple years ago. After New Energy Economy, a clean energy group, proposed the rule in 2008, a hodgepodge coalition — state legislators, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Commission, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, Public Service Company of New Mexico, the state’s largest utility, and others — filed a lawsuit to stop the Environmental Improvement Board from considering it, contending the board didn’t have the authority. A Lea County judge agreed, but was overturned this summer by the state Supreme Court, allowing the board to move forward with hearings on the rule.

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