|Lea lawmakers say agency overstepping its powers|
|Written by LEVI HILL NEWS-SUN|
|Wednesday, 24 February 2010 00:00|
Hearing to be Monday over proposal that all companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Even with only three minutes for each speaker to give their input on cap and dividend regulations that could be adopted by the state, members of the Environmental Improvement Board expect a public input hearing to take all day Monday.
The EIB, a state board made up of seven gubernatorial appointees, is delegated authority by the Legislature to adopt regulations and standards in a number of environmental management programs from air quality to OSHA safety issues.
The board was petitioned in 2008 by New Energy Economy, a non-profit group based in Santa Fe, to adopt a form of cap and trade called cap and dividend, which would sell permits for greenhouse gas emissions and require all companies in the state to reduce emissions to 25 percent below 1990 level by the year 2020.
A public input hearing on the proposed regulations is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday at the Toney Anaya Building, Rio Grande Room, in Santa Fe.
Earlier this year a group of companies and agencies as well as three local state representatives filed suit against the EIB in hopes of halting a hearing on a proposed cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
The suit was filed in the Fifth Judicial District court in Lea County by state Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, state Rep. Donald Bratton, R-Hobbs, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, El Paso Electric Company, New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association, PNM, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau and New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association.
The complaint seeks a court ruling to prevent the EIB from holding a series of rule-making hearings. Sen. Carrol Leavell, R-Jal, said the EIB is overstepping its authority by holding hearings without legislative direction.
“If you will look at the statute as to the direction the Legislature gives them, it has to do with regulating to a national standard,” Leavell said. “It doesn’t say exceeding the national standard. To my knowledge there is no national standard. They are far exceeding their authority beyond the EPA standards.”
Leavell said Tuesday the EIB moving forward with hearings is a sign of the board’s overstepping of its power.
“They are going ahead as if the lawsuit is not there thinking they will prevail in the lawsuit,” he said. “My personal opinion is they will not prevail.”
EIB chairman Gregory Green said the board must have a hearing and go through the process despite the lawsuit.
“It doesn’t have any bearing on moving forward,” he said. “We are required to have a hearing. We are moving forward on that requirement.”
Green said the EIB must have several hearings including Monday’s public input meeting and then technical hearings with representatives of NEE, the state environment department and industry opposed to the regulations.
After those meetings the EIB will make a decision on the petition, Green said.
“The only decision the board has made so far is to hold a hearing,” he said. “The board can look at the entire scope or do zero or part of it.”
Green said the board may decide not to implement the regulations request or could implement only portions of it depending on the outcome of the future hearings, which will take place later this year.
Green said the lawsuit claims the EIB cannot set greenhouse gas emission standards without a state ambient air quality standard, which has not been set.
John Fogarty, executive director of New Energy Economy, said he believes there is support for the proposed regulations and it falls to individual states to implement the regulations barring congressional action.
“It is incumbent on the states to step up to the plate,” he said. “Monday there will be speakers from a number of energy companies that will testify to the benefits of putting a cap on carbon emissions. There is a diverse amount of support from renewable energy businesses and diverse support from the public sector.”
Fogarty said the regulations will have a negligible effect on consumers and the organization does not believe the lawsuit has merit.
“We have asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. We think there is no legal basis,” he said. “I think if you look into legal merits we will prevail.”
Green said the outcome of the lawsuit could effect regulations if they are put into place, but only time will tell.