The New Mexico Supreme Court has struck down the new governor’s attempt to delay environmental actions from taking affect.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez had essentially been sitting on two new regulations put in place during the final weeks of the Bill Richardson administration. Martinez had been refusing to authorize the state’s records administrator to publish the regulations, which in New Mexico is required before a law can be enacted. Environmental groups challenged Martinez’s actions and won.
Chief Justice Charles Daniels said Martinez was overstepping her authority. “There are issues of separation of powers here. Each branch of government and various agencies of the government have separate defined powers under the rule of law, and the rule of law can't work if agencies that don't have that power or intrude on the powers of other entities,” said the chief justice while delivering the court’s majority opinion.
As for the rules, they are worthy of attention. One regulation that Martinez wanted to keep quiet is designed to protect groundwater sources from dairy farm discharges. Another was a measure that would allow New Mexico to take part of a regional cap-and-trade program, which would require the state's coal-fired power plants to gradually reduce emissions.
For the time being, this is seen as a win for environmentalists. Already, Bloomberg News has quoted
Mariel Nanasi, the executive director of the New Energy Economy, saying, “[The decision] shows that no one is above the law, and as the judges said, there's a separation of powers and everybody has their duties and that has to be respected.”
While victory is being claimed, it may be a short-lived win. Beyond a possible challenge to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, there is also the distinct chance that New Mexico’s legislature, which is now in session, will pass rules that weaken these current emissions regulations. If that happens, I get the impression that Martinez will have no qualms about swiftly getting those rules published.