Gov. Martinez fires all the members of the Environmental Improvement Board
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On her second business day in office, Gov. Susana Martinez – who forcefully opposed the decisions by the state’s Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) instituting a cap and trade program — fired all seven members of the board Tuesday (Jan. 4).
The governor’s office announced that the EIB members received an e-mail Tuesday that will be followed by this letter:
Thank you for your service to the State of New Mexico by serving on the Environmental Improvement Board. This letter is to inform you that I am removing you as a member of the Environmental Improvement Board. Your removal is effective immediately.
Again, thank you for your service to our state.
The EIB made headlines when, on this past Nov. 2 — Election Day — it voted to have New Mexico take part in a regional cap and trade program, even though Martinez and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Diane Denish opposed it, along with many members of both parties in the state legislature. One month later, the EIB approved a state-wide cap on emissions to act as a backstop should Martinez try to roll back or remove the provisions the board approved. (You can read and see more about the November meeting here and the December EIB meeting here.)
Enivronmental groups hailed the decisions but business and energy industry officials insist cap and trade measures will inhibit growth and place the state’s energy sector — the largest contributor to the state’s coffers through severance taxes — at an economic disadvantage.
On Tuesday evening, Gov. Martinez released this statement:
“New Mexico has recently suffered from an anti-business environment exacerbated by policies which discourage economic development and result in businesses setting up shop across state lines. Unfortunately, the majority of EIB members have made it clear that they are more interested in advancing political ideology than implementing common-sense policies that balance economic growth with responsible stewardship in New Mexico. As a result, I have notified members of the board that, effective immediately, their services are no longer needed. Should any members of the board wish to reapply for appointment, I will consider their qualifications on a case-by-case basis.”
As soon as I can contact one of the ousted members, I’ll post their reaction. Update: Associated Press reached Gay Dillingham, a member who voted in favor of both EIB measures, who said Tuesday night that she hoped the new governor takes a close look at the emissions program:
“So as a citizen I would expect the same dedication be given to reviewing all the evidence before she commits to overturning or supporting it,” Dillingham said. “History has shown us there is a dynamic relationship between regulatory obligation and private sector innovation and we need enough time to give this process a chance to work for New Mexico.”
Even though the new Governor’s tone in the news release is a bit striking, the move is not unexpected.
It’s generally accepted that EIB members serve at the pleasure of the sitting governor. Previous Gov. Bill Richardson, for example, asked for resignations from the EIB during his tenure and appointed members who generally agreed with his pro-environmental positions.
All of the EIB members who supported cap and trade knew they would be asked to resign and after December’s meeting they hugged, bid their farewells and took photographs in what they knew would be their final session.
The board’s most notable opponent to cap and trade was Leland Gould of Albuquerque. No word yet if he might apply for reinstatement.
As for options Gov. Martinez has to reverse the EIB’s regulatory decision on cap and trade, that’s a matter for debate. It’s generally accepted that the new governor could not overturn the EIB’s measures by simply by decree.
After the November meeting in which the EIB approved a regional cap and trade measure, I asked member John Horning – who voted for it — what it would take to reverse the board’s decision:
When I asked Gov. Martinez on Monday (Jan. 3) of the status of overturning cap and trade, she said her office was still looking into developing a strategy that could best withstand legislative and administrative scrutiny.
The smart money says this fight ends up in court.
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