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New Mexico becomes part of a regional cap and trade agreement … for now

By   /   November 2, 2010  /   No Comments

By a 4-3 vote, New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board passed a greenhouse gas cap and trade provision on Tuesday (Nov. 2), even though Governor-elect Susana Martinez campaigned against it and said she would do try to immediately repeal it upon taking office.

The vote means that New Mexico can now take part in a regional alliance that so far includes California and three Canadian provinces and place a series of emissions reductions on companies in the oil and gas industries as well as electric utilities.

The measure, which was recommended to the EIB by the state Environment Department, was strongly opposed by energy companies that claim cap and trade puts them at a competitive disadvantage, will translate into higher energy costs for consumers and does nothing to ease the effects of climate change. Environmentalists argue that global warming will hit the American Southwest especially hard in the coming years and that doing nothing puts the state at risk for an estimated $3.2 billion in added health costs, droughts, decreased supplies of water and other problems.

After the vote, we talked to two EIB members — one who voted against the proposal and one who voted for it:

The members of the EIB who voted for the proposal:

John Horning

James Gollin

Gay Dillingham

Abbas Ghassemi

Those who voted no:

Gregory Green

Frank Simms

Leland Gould

So does this mean cap and trade is now the law of the land in New Mexico? Well, yes and no.

The EIB has the authority to institute such a proposal (although a lawsuit may challenge that in court) but with a new governor coming into office Jan. 1, the political ramifications of Tuesday’s vote isn’t entirely clear.

During her campaign for governor, Susana Martinez came out forcefully against cap and trade, going so far as to say she would call for an immediate repeal of any cap and trade plan should she assume office. So how would that affect the EIB decision?

Here’s Horning:

The members of the EIB are all appointed by the New Mexico Governor. The new governor could call for the entire board to resign and then appoint new members and/or ask current members to remain. Now in theory, current board members whose terms have not expired could refuse to tender their resignations but Horning and Simms told me tonight that they expect current members to accede to the wishes of the incoming governor.

A couple additional notes:

Today’s vote could be rendered moot if California passes Proposition 23 tonight, which would suspend California’s own cap and trade mechanism. Without California as a trading partner, New Mexico would not be able to make its own cap and trade plan work. However, Prop 23 is expected to be defeated. UPDATE: Prop 23 was indeed defeated, 61 percent to 39 percent.

Also, there is yet another cap and trade proposal before the New Mexico EIB. It comes from the New Energy Economy (NEE) and calls for New Mexico to institute a statewide (rather than regional) cap and trade system. That proposal is will be discussed and is expected to be voted on at the EIB’s Dec. 6 meeting.

Finally, an interesting wrinkle concerning the vote:

Earlier in the session, the board voted 4-3 in favor of exempting the city of Farmington from the cap and trade proposal (Bernalillo County and Native American tribal lands are currently exempt). But in the final moments before casting a final vote on the cap and trade proposal at large, Chairwoman Gay Dillingham called for a “substitution motion” negating the Farmington carve-out. Abbas Ghassemi – who indicated he would vote against the proposal that included an exemption for Farmington — and Gregory Green – who said he would vote for the proposal with a Farmington exemption — switched their votes. As a result, the proposal that passed does NOT include an exemption for Farmington.

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Rob Nikolewski is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org based in Santa Fe, N.M. Contact him at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @NMWatchdog.

  • Michael Simpson

    Every proposal I’ve seen for cutting CO2 emissions amounts to a whole lot of nothing in the long run. If New Mexico stopped producing any greenhouse gases tomorrow it would have no measurable effect 10, 20, 100 years from now. It’s ridiculous to expect a handful of states to try and tackle a global problem, especially in this manner. Instead of spending billions of dollars fighting climate change how about we use it to give multi-vitamins to the millions who die every year from malnutrition? Reducing emissions is probably the least efficient use of our resources, especially when done in a haphazard method such as this.

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