Updated: Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010, 1:35 PM MDT
Published : Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010, 7:14 AM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Environmental groups scored a victory at the New Mexico State Supreme Court Monday. In a unanimous ruling, the Justices decided a state board does have the power to consider a cap on greenhouse gases.
“I think they made the right ruling,” said John Fogarty. The family practice physician heads a Santa Fe based non-profit organization called New Energy Economy. It is petitioning the state Environmental Improvement Board – E.I.B. - to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 25% below 19-90 levels.
This is not just about oil and gas, this is about all of the industries across New Mexico, and the tremendous cost that will be incurred,” said Hobbs Republican Senator Gay Kernan. She joined PNM and oil and gas interests in trying to stop the E.I.B. from hearing the petition, saying the E.I.B. doesn't have that authority.
A lower court agreed, but the State Supreme Court ruled the E.I.B., which was created by the Legislature and appointed by the Governor, does have the power to look into changes to environmental law.
“We think it is appropriate in this case to exercise and preclude our branch of government from interfering in this on going and uncompleted agency action that is taking place,” ruled Chief Justice Charles Daniels from the bench. Justices will issue a written opinion soon.
“It sets democracy back on course. The case had been delayed for a year and half,” said Fogarty. The court did not rule on the board's power to actually change the law, only to consider it. The E.I.B. will continue hearing the case on the cap. If, and when members make a decision, oil and gas industry leaders say they'll challenge it. “We will still continue to pursue it in the courts,” said Deborah Seligman of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
Last Friday, the State Environment Department asked the E.I.B. to consider a regional cap and trade on greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and gas industry groups oppose that as well, saying only the federal government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions.