Laura Paskus Blog: New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Against Governor

January 2011

By Laura Paskus

Despite the fact that President Obama didn’t even bother to mention climate change in his State of the Union address last night, here in New Mexico the issue is receiving a lot of attention.

Of course, that’s in large part because the state’s new governor, Susana Martinez, has nominated a climate change denier, Harrison Schmitt, to head the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

But that’s not all that’s been happening.

In Martinez’s first days in office, she also terminated members of the Environmental Improvement Board, which had just approved a second new rule setting limits on carbon emissions. She then tried to prevent implementation of that rule, which was passed in December.

But this morning, the New Mexico State Supreme Court ruled that the governor violated the state Constitution when she prevented that rule from being codified.

According to a press release from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which represented the nonprofit New Energy Economy in its suit against the governor:

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels stated, when announcing the court’s decision, the Court did not think it necessary to issue a writ against the Governor or the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department. “The issue is whether the suspension of the printing of the rules was proper. We will issue a writ against the State Records Administrator. She has a non-discretionary administrative duty to follow the law.”

Just in case you’re interested, by the way, you can view information about contributions to the governor’s campaign here on the website of the National Institute on Money and Politics. Top contributors include these oil and gas companies, mining and utilities companies:

Devon Energy
Myco Industries
Yates Petroleum
Marbob Energy
Koch Industries
McElvain Oil and Gas
Barrick Gold Strike Mines
NM Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Williams Companies

Altogether, oil and gas companies made up the second largest contribution to Martinez’s campaign. All told, she received $807,125 from the oil and gas industry.

It’s no surprise, then, that Martinez would so rapidly oppose emission reductions. The oil and gas industry, after all, has consistently opposed passage of any rules related to the reduction of carbon emissions.

Back in 2009, the New Mexico Environment Department had proposed a rule to the Environmental Improvement Board that would revise greenhouse gas reporting rules.

The proceedings never occurred because the department withdrew its proposal, but someone recently emailed me a copy of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico’s intent to present technical testimony.

Guess who was expected to give two hour’s worth of “expert testimony” opposing the regulations?

Dr. Harrison Schmitt (whose name, incidentally, is misspelled at times within the document as “Schmidt”).

And so here we are, caught within the cycle of trying to deny the reality of human-caused climate change while propping up industry. (And consumers: No, you’re not off the hook. It’s our demand for fossil fuels that drives production.)

I was particularly dismayed to see the comments following a commentary in Monday’s Santa Fe New Mexican, titled “Climate change deniers ignore science.” It’s all too apparent that climate change deniers (heretofore referred to as “industry hacks and paid public relations flaks”) continue to try and deceive an American public woefully under-informed about the impacts of climate change that are already occurring in other countries.

To Continue Reading: NM Supreme Court Rules Against Governor

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