Lawmakers decry EIB rules

November 4, 2010 • Local News

Local lawmakers say [auth] they are frustrated with a state regulatory board’s decision to pass new emission rules that they say will seriously harm New Mexico’s economy.

The state’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 EIB’s decision was made late Tuesday afternoon, as polls were preparing to close following this year’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 … “There’s been a lot of overblown rhetoric about the financial impact,” 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.

“It’s a disaster,” said House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, who says the EIB acted on the instruction of Gov. Bill Richardson.

“Isn’t it great that our out-going governor will take one last shot at the economy?” he asked.

“It’s a huge hit.” Other House of ficials agreed with Gardner that the regulations would harm the state’s economy.

“I think it’s another example of destructive regulations that harm our state’s ability to grow economically,” said Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell.

“This is going to have an adverse impact on the ability of the state to attract new businesses.” Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, called the rules “terrible,” but said that state officials are already looking into ways to reverse the regulations.

“People have already started working … to undo it,” she said. “We will undo them.” Opposition to the rules and the desire to build momentum to overturn them will also be visible on the Senate side of the Roundhouse.

“(It’s) the kind of thing the American people are saying they don’t want,” said Sen. Rod Adair, RRoswell, who made reference to Tuesday’s general election.

“Talk about an outrageous decision,” he said. In addition to local Republicans voicing their discontent, at least one Democrat in the Senate agreed the regulation would be a “job killer.”

“I was really kind of disappointed that they did that,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell. “It doesn’t do anything to help the state,” he said. “We need to move forward and we need to get jobs here, now.”

Jennings also agreed with Roswell’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 EIB’s timing in passing the petition.

“I think there’s a message in that,” he said. “In my opinion, if they were so proud of their vote, why didn’t they do it before Election Day? … To me, their minds were made up.” Fogarty disagreed that the vote was timed and said that it happened naturally. “We put forward our proposal back in December 2008,” he said. “This isn’t something that has sprung up at the last minute, this is something that’s been discussed and debated for about 2 years.”

Fogarty also said he hopes to be able to persuade lawmakers to see the benefits of the rules “I look forward, frankly, to meeting with and talking with legislators about the benefits for the state of New Mexico,” he said. “I think it’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.”

Xcel Energy, which provides power to much of Roswell, has two plants located near Hobbs that make New Energy Economy’s shortlist of stationary sources that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. A spokesman for the energy company says it’s too early to say exactly how much the regulations could increase consumer’s electric bills.

“You can’t predict what the costs will be over time with an undeveloped market … (but) either way, there is cost involved,” said Wes Reeves, spokesman for Xcel Energy, who added that any increased cost for service would “ultimately be passed onto the consumer.”

He also said that an increase in energy costs could drive away companies looking to relocate to the area. “Our communities really depend on the inexpensive power that we provide,” he said. “That’s one of the things that (economic improvement groups) use to attract (new) businesses.”

The regulations that were passed Tuesday were amended to include language for cost containment measures if businesses can demonstrate excessive monetary loss.

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