NM Capitol Report: Pollution Rule Down the Tubes

March 2012

The state Environmental Improvement Board, saying a 15-month-old rule to reduce carbon pollution was bad for business and already outdated, repealed the measure today in a unanimous vote.

Deborah Peacock of Albuquerque, the board chairwoman, said new federal regulations actually had caused the state rule to “sunset.” But she and the other board members nonetheless made an official change by erasing the rule as state environmental policy.

Large electric utilities, oil and gas companies and Gov. Susana Martinez opposed the state’s rule on carbon pollution, also called greenhouse gas emissions.

Peacock said the requirements had caused some companies to eliminate New Mexico from consideration as a plant site and instead locate in Texas or Colorado.

Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, the environmental group that initially petitioned the board in December 2008 for a carbon emissions reduction program, said the process was tainted by a biased board.

She left the meeting after about four hours of commentary by the board members but before they voted on the repeal.

Nanasi said Peacock “met behind closed doors“ with staff members of PNM, the state’s largest utility company, and other corporations to plan the repeal process.

Peacock said such allegations were untrue and reckless.

She said the board members, all appointed last year by new Republican governor Martinez, knew little or nothing about the issue when they began work. A careful analysis of the rule and public testimony persuaded them to strike it, Peacock said.

The rule had been implemented by a predecessor board appointed by then-governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat.

“The necessity for the rule didn’t change, just the politics,” Nanasi said. “Poisonous toxins pour from the coal plant smokestacks every day. Responsible government would put a stop to that, but Martinez’s EIB has been hijacked by special interests.”

Nanasi’s side can appeal to the state Court of Appeals, and she indicated that would happen, saying Big Oil and Big Coal had only won the first round.

Among those who petitioned the board to repeal the rule were the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Southwestern Public Service Company, the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, the city of Farmington and its electric utility and El Paso Electric Co.

Those utilities and industry groups said the carbon pollution rules would do little except make New Mexico worse off economically.

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