Governor Susana Martinez
Governor Martinez’s Inauspicious Start
Susana Martinez rode a wave of voter discontent to victory in November 2010 as the country’s first-ever female Hispanic governor. While her election made history for good reason, her tenure so far has been damaging to our water, health and environment.
Governor Martinez has launched an aggressive attack on the safeguards on which New mexicans depend to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe. From our view, she is systematically working to dismantle these safeguards–threatening the security of our families and communities.
Lowlights from the Martinez Administration Agenda
First, a glimmer of hope?
In the first year of this Administration and in stark contrast to previous administrations, the conservation community experienced no effort by any of the relevant environmental and conservation agencies to pro-actively reach out prior to the legislative session. CVNM and our allies discovered the Administration’s (anti-) environmental priorities in advance only through the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests.
This year, initial pro-active forays by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) regarding the 2013 legislative priorities, offer us reason to hope and we commend NMED.
Notwithstanding these much-appreciated gestures, some of the most troubling Administration actions include:
Dismantling Critical Safeguards
Governor Martinez has been systematically dismantling health and environmental safeguards. Among others, her administration has taken the following actions:
- The Environmental Improvement Board (EIB)–a board whose members are significantly aligned with polluting industries–began hearings to dismantle rules that would reduce New Mexico’s carbon pollution. Adopted after dozens of hours of public comment, expert testimony, and cross-examination, these rules aimed to create new clean energy jobs and combat climate change. In December 2011, the board voted to overturn the state’s participation in a regional cap-and-trade program; in March 2012, it proceeded also to overturn the state’s carbon cap rule.
- The Oil Conservation Commission (OCC)–of which Governor Martinez designates two out of the three members–has held hearings in 2012 to repeal the 2008 “pit rule,” which safeguards our groundwater from contamination by oil and gas production waste. While the OCC has delayed a final decision, it appears that oil and gas producers have been working closely with the Administration to repeal the rule. It is important to note that since the adoption of the pit rule, there have been ZERO cases of reported groundwater contamination from pits. At the same time, the data on oil and gas rig counts–as well as some companies’ own press releases–tout increased oil and gas production since the pit rule was implemented. Simply put, the pit rule works and the OCC should keep it in place.
- The Construction Industries Commission repealed energy-efficient building codes that were designed to save New Mexicans money on their utility bills while reducing harmful carbon pollution.
- The Game Commission reversed a rule that had suspended trapping in the Gila and Apache national forests–critical wolf habitats–thus jeopardizing the recovery of the species and potentially harming other wildlife as well.
Veto of Common-Sense Initiatives
In addition to dismantling public health, safety and environmental rules, the Governor chose to veto common-sense initiatives passed by the state legislature with overwhelming bi-partisan support. Among these were laws to:
- ensure that big corporations pay their fair share of taxes in New Mexico (2012 and 2011)
- protect our water from mercury contamination from dental clinic waste (passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously, 2011)
- provide the public with clear and transparent information about the expenditure of their tax dollars—including subsidies to the oil and gas industry (passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously, 2011)
- protect cyclists on New Mexico roads—important because our state has one of the highest cyclist and pedestrian fatality rates in the country (passed the House and Senate by narrower margins, 2011)
- allow colleges to access financing for energy efficiency measures, repaying the bonds through reductions in their utility bills, but saving additional money in the process (passed the House unanimously and the Senate by a margin of 30-3, 2011)
Unlawful Suspension of Rules
Immediately upon her swearing-in on January 1, 2011, Governor Martinez unlawfully suspended publication of several rules that were put in place to reduce carbon pollution, increase the energy efficiency of buildings, and protect water from contamination by waste from dairy factories. The Supreme Court quickly tossed out her actions as unlawful, and directed immediate publication of the rules.
“Small Business” Task Force
At the same time, Governor Martinez established a “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” that turns out decidedly not to be “New Mexican-friendly.” Problems with the task force include:
- At the outset, the administration released no information about the composition, directives or meetings of the task force.
- Subsequent information was released only after public records inspection requests by reporters and non-profit organizations.
- The membership of the task force was stacked with lobbyists for big, polluting industries and out-of-state corporations with no representatives from “Mom & Pop” shops, the scientific or public health community, or any public interest organization.
- The task force’s midpoint report stated: “The goal is to provide the Governor and/or agencies cover when repealing or revising a rule . . ..” Its final report from April 2011 recommended that “State rules and regulations should not be more stringent than federal standards,” and existing rules should be “corrected.” However, federal standards are the lowest common denominator for the nation; states must adapt these standards to meet local needs and circumstances. New Mexicans should determine for ourselves what rules are necessary here, and not leave our future up to whatever the federal government decides.
- The bottom line is that the task force operated with no transparency, no public involvement or input, and certainly no mandate to serve the public interest.
Nomination of Harrison Schmitt
Governor Martinez then thumbed her nose at scientific consensus by nominating Harrison Schmitt to serve as Secretary of the Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department. Among other controversies, Schmitt is well-known for:
- calling environmentalists “communists”,
- denying human-caused climate change,
- blaming regulation for the BP oil spill (instead of BP’s failure to comply with existing rules).
Fortunately Schmitt withdrew his nomination under questionable circumstances.
Many of the Governor’s other nominations have been equally disturbing, including her appointment of a dairy industry lobbyist and mining employee to the Water Quality Control Commission.
Governor Martinez has already racked up a surprisingly lengthy record of siding with big special interests over the good of regular New Mexicans. In her quest to gut public health and safety rules—seemingly at the behest of the big corporations represented on her secret task force—we believe she is hurting New Mexico families and jeopardizing the future of our communities and quality of life.
Let the Governor know that you want her to start looking out for the voters who elected her by protecting the environment. The Governor’s office can be reached at 505-476-2200.