New Mexico Supreme Court Overrules Tea Party Governor Fighting Climate Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that new Tea Party Governor Susana Martinez violated the state constitution when she prevented New Mexico’s democratically-approved rule reducing carbon pollution from being published as codified state law.

Essentially their supreme court said “no one is above the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by the environmental nonprofit New Energy Economy, and reflects growing claims that Gov. Martinez tried to suppress the rule in an attempt to appease major carbon polluters who contributed heavily to her gubernatorial campaign, and that her suppression was arbitrary and illegal. Preventing its publication was not discretionary, the court ruled. According to eyewitnesses, it seemed as if this New Mexico Supreme Court ruling took just 30 minutes to decide.

Since Governor Martinez is actually a former assistant state attorney, the illegality of her action brought up a question in my mind. I asked Mariel Nanasi, the Executive Director of NEE, wouldn’t she know that was illegal? Nanasi laughed as if this was obvious, saying; “pretty much any attorney in that position would know that this suppression was illegal.”

I also was interested to learn that it can be quite costly to the taxpayer for Governors to fight legal battles. Knowing in advance that it was illegal and therefor that she would lose, would seem to be like knowingly stiffing the taxpayer to no purpose.

So apparently Tea Party Governor Susana Martinez has knowingly racked up expensive legal time fighting an un-winnable attack on the climate bill in New Mexico – on the taxpayers dime. Or perhaps, the legal work is paid for by the energy industry, from the Koch Brothers, to local dirty utility PNN, that benefits from taking the clean energy legislation off track.

The Albuquerque Journal suggests that it is the utility’s ratepayers that are facing hikes to their bills to pay for these legal battles. But either way, it is the New Mexico taxpayer or PNN utility customer that is paying to fight a battle that the Governor knew she could not win.

As of now, both measures she tried to kill are back on track. New Mexico’s Climate Bill, like Massachusetts and California’s AB32, lowers greenhouse gases with polluter-paid incentives for clean energy development. It requires facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon pollution per year to reduce those emissions by 3%  per year from 2010 levels starting in 2013.

New Mexico’s membership with California in the Western Climate Initiative cap and trade plan is also now on track. Of course there are more legal battles ahead, and ones she will enter, to fight for polluters, with better legal preparation, perhaps. But NEE has come this far already.

“We are prepared to continue fighting and winning against all challenges to New Mexico’s carbon pollution reduction rule—the scientific and economic facts are clearly on our side,” Nanasi said in an email. “We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling today and will redouble our efforts to transform this culture of litigation into a culture of investment in creating family-supporting jobs for New Mexicans, and an enduring legacy for future generations.”

The small environmental group initially led a two-year public deliberation process that resulted in the carbon pollution reduction rule being adopted as official state law by the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board, by an overwhelming majority vote.

“Governor Martinez attempted an end run around the constitution at the request of major polluters,” said Bruce Frederick, staff attorney from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of NEE.

“Her attempt to prevent the carbon pollution rule from becoming a valid state law is highly illegal and cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.”

::New Energy Economy
::New Mexico Environmental Law Center

The back story on this bill:
New Mexico Passes Climate Bill – Will Join Western Climate Initiative
New Mexico Tea Party Governor Kills 3% Yearly Pollution Reduction Plan
Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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