January 26, 2011, 3:29 pm
Court Reverses New Mexico Governor on Environmental Rules
By FELICITY BARRINGER
The New Mexico Supreme Court’s rebuke to Susana Martinez, the state’s new governor was blunt. “No one is above the law,” the state’s chief justice, Charles W. Daniels, said Wednesday morning as he announced the high court’s decision to reinstate two environmental regulations that the governor had unilaterally blocked upon taking office earlier this month. In a unanimous decision, the court ordered that the rules — one requiring annual 3 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and another aimed at controlling waste discharges from the state’s dairies — must be published in the state’s register, which will make them effective. Governor Martinez had forbidden the register from publishing the rules. Justice Daniels said that universal compliance with the law was essential, or “there will be a wasteland with no law.” The judge’s words were confirmed by two lawyers who attended the hearing. The dairy industry had opposed a rule by the New Mexico Water Quality Commission requiring that all manure lagoons incorporate a synthetic liner as a barrier separating the nitrogen-rich manure from the ground to keep contaminants from leaching into the groundwater. Officials of the state’s environment department have estimated that two-thirds of such ponds have contaminated groundwater beneath them. Beverly Idsinga, the executive director of the New Mexico Dairy Association, said in an interview that her group would be working nonetheless with the governor and the legislature to try to change some elements of the rule, particularly those dealing with groundwater monitoring and the universal requirement for synthetic liners below manure lagoons. The rule requiring annual decreases in carbon emissions was opposed by utility interests in the state, but it was not the leading regulation on the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Originally proposed by the group New Energy Economy, it was intended to serve as a backup if the earlier regulation was taken off the books. Governor Martinez has said that she does not believe that science has clearly established a link between climate change and human activity.