Local lawmakers say they are frustrated with a state regulatory boardâ€™s decision to pass new emission rules that they say will seriously harm New Mexicoâ€™s economy.
The stateâ€™s Environmental Improvement Board approved a proposal for establishing a greenhouse gas emissions program in a 4-3 vote.
The rules target sources that emit at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, mainly coal and gas fired power plants, as well as oil and gas operations, according to environmental groups.
The announcement of the EIBâ€™s decision was made late Tuesday afternoon, as polls were preparing to close following this yearâ€™s general election.
Roswell lawmakers say they oppose the regulations that environmental groups say could actually spur new business development in the state and claim … â€œThereâ€™s been a lot of overblown rhetoric about the financial impact,â€ said John Fogarty, president of New Energy Economy, an environmental group in support of the regulations.
Despite assurances that the cap-and-trade program would benefit the state, local lawmakers say they will fight to overturn the rules, adding that past attempts of limiting greenhouse gas emissions through legislation have repeatedly been tossed by the Legislature.
â€œItâ€™s a disaster,â€ said House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, who says the EIB acted on the instruction of Gov. Bill Richardson.
â€œIsnâ€™t it great that our out-going governor will take one last shot at the economy?â€ he asked.
â€œItâ€™s a huge hit.â€ Other House of ficials agreed with Gardner that the regulations would harm the stateâ€™s economy.
â€œI think itâ€™s another example of destructive regulations that harm our stateâ€™s ability to grow economically,â€ said Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell.
â€œThis is going to have an adverse impact on the ability of the state to attract new businesses.â€ Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, called the rules â€œterrible,â€ but said that state officials are already looking into ways to reverse the regulations.
â€œPeople have already started working … to undo it,â€ she said. â€œWe will undo them.â€ Opposition to the rules and the desire to build momentum to overturn them will also be visible on the Senate side of the Roundhouse.
â€œ(Itâ€™s) the kind of thing the American people are saying they donâ€™t want,â€ said Sen. Rod Adair, RRoswell, who made reference to Tuesdayâ€™s general election.
â€œTalk about an outrageous decision,â€ he said. In addition to local Republicans voicing their discontent, at least one Democrat in the Senate agreed the regulation would be a â€œjob killer.â€
â€œI was really kind of disappointed that they did that,â€ said Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell. â€œIt doesnâ€™t do anything to help the state,â€ he said. â€œWe need to move forward and we need to get jobs here, now.â€
Jennings also agreed with Roswellâ€™s Roundhouse delegation in that there would be bi-partisan support to overturn the new rules once the Legislature convenes for session in January. The top Senate lawmaker also called into question the EIBâ€™s timing in passing the petition.
â€œI think thereâ€™s a message in that,â€ he said. â€œIn my opinion, if they were so proud of their vote, why didnâ€™t they do it before Election Day? … To me, their minds were made up.â€ Fogarty disagreed that the vote was timed and said that it happened naturally. â€œWe put forward our proposal back in December 2008,â€ he said. â€œThis isnâ€™t something that has sprung up at the last minute, this is something thatâ€™s been discussed and debated for about 2 years.â€
Fogarty also said he hopes to be able to persuade lawmakers to see the benefits of the rules â€œI look forward, frankly, to meeting with and talking with legislators about the benefits for the state of New Mexico,â€ he said. â€œI think itâ€™s foolish, just for political purposes, to overturn something that is going to attract new businesses (and) new investments, that will create new jobs in the state.â€
Xcel Energy, which provides power to much of Roswell, has two plants located near Hobbs that make New Energy Economyâ€™s shortlist of stationary sources that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. A spokesman for the energy company says itâ€™s too early to say exactly how much the regulations could increase consumerâ€™s electric bills.
â€œYou canâ€™t predict what the costs will be over time with an undeveloped market … (but) either way, there is cost involved,â€ said Wes Reeves, spokesman for Xcel Energy, who added that any increased cost for service would â€œultimately be passed onto the consumer.â€
He also said that an increase in energy costs could drive away companies looking to relocate to the area. â€œOur communities really depend on the inexpensive power that we provide,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s one of the things that (economic improvement groups) use to attract (new) businesses.â€
The regulations that were passed Tuesday were amended to include language for cost containment measures if businesses can demonstrate excessive monetary loss.