Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The state Environmental Improvement Board voted 5-0 Monday to repeal a controversial cap-and-trade regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nullifying a struggling program before it got off the ground.
A partnership of seven states originally envisioned to participate in the cap-and-trade program had dwindled to two, board Chairman Deborah Peacock said.
“The intent was that all these states would be doing this cap and trading, and everyone’s dropped (out) except for California and New Mexico,” she said. “That, to me, was very significant.”
The state, in fact, officially exited the program in the fall.
The ruling reversed a 2010 decision of the previous board appointed by then-Gov. Bill Richardson. Gov. Susana Martinez, who was openly critical of the plan, fired the board shortly after taking office and appointed the current board members. The state Environment Department supported the repeal.
“The economic cost of this rule is not worth the environmental risk,” board member John Volkerding told the Journal.
The board, which heard three days of testimony in November, deliberated 2 1/2 hours before voting. Board members Timothy Morrow and Jeffrey Bryce also voted to repeal. Board members John Casciano and Greg Fulfer recused themselves.
The rule targeted mostly oil and gas operations and electric utilities with more than 25,000 tons of emissions believed to be contributing to global warming. It would have required them to cut emissions by 2 percent a year, starting this year. Companies unable to meet the reductions were to buy allowances or offsets from other companies participating in the regional program.
Public utilities, including Public Service Company of New Mexico, oil and gas groups, and others opposed to the rule contended the emissions issue would be better addressed at the national level. They said the rule would drive up energy costs and jeopardize jobs. They petitioned the board to repeal both the cap-and-trade measure and a separate, state-only rule from Santa Fe’s New Energy Economy to cap greenhouse gas emissions. The board will decide on the latter rule next month.
The Governor’s Office said it was pleased with Monday’s decision.
“This is a regulation that failed to pass the Legislature and was instead rushed through without sufficient science, even some proponents admitting it wouldn’t have a tangible positive benefit impact on the environment,” a statement from the Governor’s Office said.
PNM’s Pat Themig, vice president of generation, said it “would have imposed an enormous cost on New Mexico’s fragile economy with no measurable reduction in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.”
Attorney Bruce Frederick of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which represented rule proponent NEE, called the hearing a “very expensive formality.”
“It’s a shame that this administration is pandering to the few monied voices and leaving the public out in the cold,” he said in a news release. The release said it plans to appeal.