N.M. set to overturn carbon cap

Source: Christa Marshall • E&E • Posted: Monday, March 19, 2012

New Mexico is expected to repeal a rule today that would have established a carbon cap in the state.

The move culminates a multiyear fight between supporters who said the cap would have made the state a leader on climate change and opponents who said it would limit economic growth. The state cap would have taken effect in 2013 and required 3 percent annual cuts in carbon dioxide emissions below 2010 levels.

“They’ve already made up their mind,” said Bruce Frederick, a staff attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, about the state environmental improvement board, which is scheduled to take a vote on the issue today.

He said his group — which supports the cap — plans to appeal the decision to the appellate court and New Mexico Supreme Court.

He said the outcome was certain after Gov. Susana Martinez (R), who assumed office in January 2011, appointed the current board. The rule set to be repealed today was passed in 2010 by a different set of regulators appointed by former Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who supported emission limits.

“This will not come up again” under the current governor, Frederick said.

Martinez has slammed climate limits as “cap and tax” programs and moved last year to block the carbon rule’s publication in the state register before being blocked by the state Supreme Court.

Opponents of the cap, including PNM Resources and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, have long said that the proposal would increase costs for energy customers.

“No proven commercial available control technologies exist for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at existing generation facilities, and even if such technologies did exist, it would be impossible to permit and construct such devices on existing resources between now and 2013,” opponents wrote last year in official documents with the board.

Green groups have said the cap would have cost utilities less than 1 percent of their annual revenues while boosting clean-energy companies.

Today’s vote follows on the heels of a decision by the board in February to repeal separate cap-and-trade rules that would have allowed the state to participate in a regional carbon trading program with California and Canadian provinces known as the Western Climate Initiative.