I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
NM Supreme Court rules state may continue work on greenhouse gas emissions cap
The state Environmental Improvement Board can resume consideration of state regulations that would cap greenhouse gas emissions, The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The decision reverses an earlier Lovington District Court decision that halted the Board’s consideration of a 2008 petition by environmental group New Energy Economy (NEE) to regulate carbon emissions in New Mexico.
Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels reportedly cautioned judges not to violate the separation of powers doctrine by interfering in administrative processes.
“It’s great news,” NEE and New Mexico Environmental Law Center lead attorney Bruce Frederick told The Independent. “It was nice to hear we still live in America. PNM and the oil companies tried to subvert the democratic process by getting a judge to violate the separation of powers doctrine and prevent the state from even considering a regulation. I think the issues were quite obvious, frankly.”
Now that the state’s right to consider a carbon cap has been affirmed, work will begin again on the Board’s consideration of the NEE petition, Frederick said. He anticipates a public hearing this summer.
“If that case continues, we will continue to raise our concerns regarding both the legality and the effectiveness of a state-only cap,” PNM spokesman Don Brown said.
PNM, three Republican state lawmakers and oil and gas industry groups filed a lawsuit in January to halt consideration of a cap, arguing the Board lacks authority under state law to regulate air quality without first establishing the specific air quality standards. States should not pursue their own “piecemeal” climate change legislation, the group also argued.
“The court did not in any way consider the merits of the NEE proposal; instead it exercised what is known as ‘superintending control’ to require the district court to dissolve the stay and dismiss the underlying case. The court made it clear the plaintiffs still have the right to challenge the cap after the regulatory proceeding is completed,” Brown said.
Normally, district court decisions are appealed to the Court of Appeals before they are heard by the Supreme Court, Frederick noted. In this case, the Supreme Court ordered a district judge to reverse his decision, Frederick said.
“Under our Constitution, the Supreme Court can issue extraordinary writs,” he said. “It allows the Supreme Court to supervise the lower courts and make sure they don’t violate the Constitution.”
“This case was about the state having the authority to effectively make rules,” King said. “This is the right decision for the state, it is clear that we now have an orderly process for rule-making and I am very pleased the Court granted our Writ of Superintending Control.”