On Wednesday, New Mexico’s newly elected Governor Susana Martinez, a climate change skeptic, suffered a major defeat. After suspending global warming regulations on her first day in office, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled against the Governor, requiring the state to regulate global warming emissions and to implement a carbon reduction program.
Highlighting years of climate action during his administration, and following two years of deliberation, members of former Governor Bill Richardson’s (D-NM) Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) voted 4-3 in November to mandate global warming emissions reductions from large stationary sources (3% per year from 2010 levels, starting in 2013); and to approve a state cap and trade system.
Riding the Republican climate skeptic wave to power in the fall elections, however, Martinez wasted little time undoing her predecessor’s progress. She issued Executive Order 2011-001 on January 1st in an effort to halt proposed and pending science-based rules and regulations (including the EIB’s decision) for a period of 90 days. The new governor had no scientific reasoning for her position, however, it was purely based on ideological opposition to climate action.
Scott Darnell, a spokesman for the Governor, explained her strategy: “The cap and tax regulation had not been published in the New Mexico register, which means it was not yet valid or enforceable.”
Not content with simply quashing a science-based regulation, three days later, the Governor fired all 7 members of the EIB:
“Unfortunately, the majority of EIB members have made it clear that they are more interested in advancing political ideology than implementing common-sense policies that balance economic growth with responsible stewardship…”
She also appointed former Senator, astronaut, NASA geologist and fellow climate skeptic Harrison “Jack” Schmitt to head the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
Arguing that Martinez did not have the authority to interfere in the rule-making process, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) filed lawsuits in January against the Governor, the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico State Records Administrator. On behalf of New Energy Economy and Amigos Bravos, the NMELC petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to require the Governor and Environment Department to comply with existing law, and to compel the State Records Center to publish the global warming emissions regulations in the State Register.
“The issue is whether the suspension of the printing of the rules was proper,” stated New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels who delivered the decision. While he stopped short of issuing a writ against the Governor or the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, he was clear that the law had been broken: “We will issue a writ against the State Records Administrator. She has a non-discretionary administrative duty to follow the law.”
Bruce Frederick, NMELC staff attorney applauded the judge’s decision:
“This is a tremendous and deserved victory for the administration of justice in New Mexico…The ruling ensures that our regulations will continue to be developed in a public and open process, and be protected from revision through secret, backroom deals.”
Darnell, speaking for Martinez, responded to the court’s decision:
“In the case of Cap and Tax…a new EIB will be appointed consisting of bi-partisan members who we fully expect will put science ahead of political ideology in every matter they consider.”
That seems to confirm the Governor’s ideology will continue to cloud her grasp of science, since it was in fact science that won the day over ideology in the court’s ruling that the state must regulate emissions. Hopefully the new governor and her skeptical staff will learn the difference between ideology and science sometime soon, otherwise it will be a long four years for New Mexicans who understand the urgent need to curb global warming pollution.