Alibi V.24 No.52 • Dec 24-30, 2015 

Newscity

Susana Martinez
Susana Martinez

Pizza Party Politics

For many local readers, discovering that New Mexico made the national news instinctually elicits a wince, sometimes even before the details of the latest notoriety are known. A long and wan parade made up of clowns with names like high unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, failed educational institutions and endemic poverty have made the aforementioned response de rigueur.

Add governmental incompetence to the procession and you’ve got the makings of a terrible carnival, one that citizens will sit through, albeit with varying levels of discomfort, fascination and ultimately resignation. Such is the case with the latest news from our state’s seat of government, Santa Fe. Last week, the Santa Fe New Mexican broke news about our governor's behavior during an interaction with police at a prominent capitol city hotel.

Following the state's annual holiday party for staffers—this year's fete was held at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa, one of Santa Fe's most tony social settings—the front desk received complaints about “loud noise” in the room where Susana Martinez was hanging out, “eating pizza and drinking cokes.” They called the police.

Of course the governor found about about this situation; for reasons that are still unclear to casual observers, she proceeded to instigate a confrontation with hotel employees, a police dispatcher and one of the responding officers. All of that unfortunate bluster and odd behavior was recorded.

NM Political Report published the recordings of Martinez' interactions on its website. Then, the reporters at the New Mexican began to do their job, following up and further clarifying the event. Then the whole damn thing grew legs.

Huffington Post called attention to Martinez' unprofessional actions with a headline that read, in part, “Totally Not Drunk Governor Chastises Cops,” while Gawker went with commentary that included the following pithy observation about our state's glorious leader: “Susana Martinez is maybe 17 years old.” The rest, as they say, is history.

San Juan Generating Station
San Juan Generating Station
Grand Canyon Trust

Emissions Plan Takes Shape

The US Environmental Protection Agency has come up with a Clean Power Plan to ensure that greenhouse gases and emissions produced by energy producers such as PNM and El Paso Electric are strictly regulated. After the plan was published in October, state environment departments—such as the one here in New Mexico—have been tasked to respond by developing specific measures to acknowledge and enforce limits on the pollutants that most credible scientists say contribute to global climate change.

Although the Martinez administration initially stood in opposition to further regulation of energy industries in the state, Hector Balderas, the state's Democratic Attorney General, has consistently supported federal mandate on the plan, backing the EPA against legal challenges here in New Mexico.

At a meeting that the NMED held with several state power companies in mid-November several issues were discussed. Although representatives of N.M. utility companies generally agreed to the premises outlined in the EPA plan, they favor capping total emissions as well as providing a method for interstate emissions trading, “so that fossil fuel generators that fall short of their standards can purchase allowances to comply.”

Adding complexity to an already complicated formula for stopping pollution in its tracks, the response that the state Environment Department makes must be approved by a regulatory committee called the Environmental Improvement Board. This state board is made up of Martinez' appointees who have been vetted by the state senate. There is some fear among the power companies that the political nature of the the board will allow members to “mess around with” the plan, after it has been written and submitted. Staff at NMED have been quoted as saying they will withdraw the plan from consideration if that scenario arises.

Additionally, the city of Albuquerque will also have a say in the shape and implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The Air Quality Control Act—the underlying law being used to bolster the EPA's project—considers the city to be an energy-using entity separate from the rest of the state. Hence, the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board must also approve of any plans coming from the state in response to the new federal standards.

Nonetheless, emissions trading seems to be at the crux of the issue. PNM is asking for permanent allowances for shutting down coal-powered units in the Four Corners and representatives of the utility company say that the ability to trade emissions credits or allowances across state lines is crucial to the plan's success.

The plan is now in the public comment phase and such is being managed by the NMED CPP Public Outreach Program.

The deadline for submission of a workable plan is September 2016, though environment department officials plan to request an extension until 2018 to ensure the plan’s efficacy.