|New emissions cap proposal draws fire in N.M.|
|Saturday, 13 March 2010 00:00|
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A revamped effort by a nonprofit environmental group to seek a greenhouse gas emissions cap in New Mexico sparked another round of criticism Friday from a coalition of industry groups, utilities and others.
New Energy Economy filed its new proposal as part of technical testimony submitted to the state Environmental Improvement Board earlier this month. The filing came the day after a public hearing in which critics of the proposed cap complained it would be an economic disaster for the state.
Opponents filed a motion Friday that asks the board to strike New Energy Economy’s testimony and its new plan. The motion says the group failed to disclose to the board and the dozens who gathered for the public hearing that it planned to “fundamentally change its proposal in less than 24 hours.”
“Rather, the petitioner allowed the public and interested parties to provide comments on what amounts to a mere ’straw person’ proposal. This resulted in a substantial loss of time and expense for all involved,” the motion states.
Bruce Frederick, an attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, which filed the petition on behalf of New Energy Economy, said the motion is just another attempt by the oil and natural gas industry and electricity producers to kill the effort to establish a greenhouse gas emissions cap.
“They will continue to complain. They really don’t want any greenhouse gas regulation at any cost,” Frederick said.
Critics argue that greenhouse gas emissions should be addressed by the federal government and a cap applying only to New Mexico businesses would put the state at a disadvantage.
Frederick also dismissed accusations that New Energy Economy is trying to skirt its new proposal past the public. He said the board has given people the opportunity to comment throughout the process.
More hearings are planned this summer, and the board doesn’t expect to make a decision until the fall.
Don Brown, a spokesman for Public Service Company of New Mexico, the state’s largest utility and one of the critics of New Energy Economy’s proposal, said the utility and others have spent tens of thousands of dollars over the past year analyzing the impact of the original proposed cap on the state, customers and businesses.
“The differences are very clear on a number of aspects of the proposal,” Brown said. “We see this essentially as a new proposal so we don’t think the parties to the case were given proper notice.”
New Energy Economy initially petitioned the board in December 2008 to impose a cap that would affect any business that emitted more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year. The group advocated for reductions of 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
The revamped petition contains a more specific proposal for a phased-in program that would require only electricity generators and those in the oil and gas industry that emit more than 25,000 metric tons per year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent each year from 2010 levels.
The petition includes offsets as well as a limit on the amount companies would be required to spend to control emissions. Frederick said the intent of establishing a cap remains the same, but the new proposal gives the board a way to achieve it.