NM governor takes aim at pollution rules

By Susan Montoya Bryan

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 26 2011 4:56 p.m. MDT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday she is fighting to keep New Mexicans' electric rates from increasing due to the implementation of what she described as expensive, nonsensical environmental regulations.

Speaking to a group of utility shareholders and state lawmakers, Martinez took aim at a recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires new pollution control equipment at one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the Southwest, the San Juan Generating Station in northern New Mexico.

She said New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the EPA last week because the agency infringed on the state's ability to adopt its own plan for curbing haze-causing pollution at the plant.

Martinez also used her address to encourage people to participate in hearings that will begin in two weeks on whether New Mexico should keep in place regulations aimed at trimming greenhouse gas emissions.

The governor said the emissions rules and the EPA mandate are expensive and those costs will likely be passed by utilities on to New Mexico ratepayers.

Martinez pointed to statistics that show nearly 20 percent of New Mexicans live below the federal poverty level and that more than 80,000 households relied on some form of federal assistance last year.

"Adopting meaningless, incredibly expensive and symbolic regulations that only serve to harm New Mexico families and businesses simply does not make sense," she said.

Despite the governor's goal of creating a regulatory environment aimed at enticing more businesses to expand and relocate to New Mexico, environmental groups have criticized her for attempting to roll back some of the pollution measures adopted in the waning weeks of former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's tenure.

The greenhouse gas regulations were approved by the state Environmental Improvement Board last November after more than two years of legal wrangling and public hearings.

Martinez said she appointed new board members after taking office in January because the board was "stacked with individuals who were more interested in advancing their political ideology than implementing common-sense policies."

The board has scheduled hearings in early November to consider petitions by utilities, the oil and natural gas industry and others that seek to repeal the emissions rules. Appeals are also pending in state appellate court.

Environmentalists contend the rules would spur clean energy development in New Mexico and would put the state in a better position if the federal government were to ever develop its own cap and trade regulations.

New Mexico's rules encompass the state Environment Department's plan for participating in a regional cap-and-trade program, as well as a statewide cap of greenhouse gas emissions that was initially proposed by the environmental group New Energy Economy.

New Energy Economy has argued that the rules were adopted based on scientific and economic merits and should not be repealed.

Critics, including the governor, have said the state's emissions represent only a fraction of the global problem and that the rules create an uneven playing field for New Mexico businesses.

Martinez said Wednesday that every regulation the state considers should be based on science and should balance environmental needs with responsible development and economic growth.

"Going forward, we need to ask ourselves 'Do the regulations we impose on energy producers even make sense? Are they based on sound scientific research? Are they reasonable? Are they administratively feasible? Are they effective?'" she said.

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