Updated: Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 12:54 PM MST
Published : Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 12:54 PM MST
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - The Sierra Club has sued Gov. Susana Martinez after she prevented the publication of building codes intended to promote energy-saving standards.
Shortly after the Republican governor took office Jan. 1, she issued an executive order suspending all pending and proposed regulations for 90 days while a task force reviews the measures.
The Sierra Club contends the new building codes will help residents and businesses reduce energy consumption by about 20 percent, and that everyone in the state will benefit from a reduced demand for energy that will cut power plant emissions and conserve resources.
At issue in the lawsuit is whether Martinez exceeded her authority by canceling rules finalized by the previous administration and whether the heads of the State Records Center and the Construction Industry Division exceeded their authority by attempting to cancel publication of the rules, which were adopted after a year of work and public meetings.
The Sierra Club contends the actual publication in the New Mexico State Register has nothing to do with whether a rule is final.
The lawsuit argues that by law, a rule "will automatically be deemed published three weeks after it is properly submitted to the State Records Center if the State Records Center fails to publish the rule as a result of error."
The lawsuit also contends the records administrator does not have discretion to decide whether to publish a rule, and that the state Records Act has no provision for an agency to request withdrawal or cancellation of a rule that's been properly submitted.
"The governor cannot circumvent the law or expand her powers by executive order," said Sierra Club senior staff attorney Gloria Smith.
Thirteen building codes were adopted by the state Regulation and Licensing Department's Construction Industry Division from July through September 2010.
They were filed with the Records Center on Dec. 28, but the division canceled the filing Jan. 5 and the rules were not published in the Jan. 14 state register.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court in Santa Fe, asks the court to reverse the cancellation, prohibit the governor from interfering with rule filings and publication and compel her to comply with the law. A Supreme Court spokeswoman said Thursday the state has until Jan. 31 to respond.
The lawsuit is similar to two filed earlier this month by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center over greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater rules governing discharges by dairies.