CLIMATE CHANGE ROUNDUP: New Mexico Repeal May Leave California Looking for WCI Links

By Published On: February 18, 2011

The California Air Resources Board is planning a spring meeting on how to link its carbon cap-and-trade program with other carbon trading programs under the Western Climate Initiative. It could be a small meeting, however. The only other U.S. state in the initiative that's adopted a cap-and-trade system is moving to repeal it under new political leadership. New Mexico's Environmental Improvement Board late last year adopted a carbon cap-and-trade program under then-Governor Bill Richardson, a leading Democrat. Richardson's board approved the program pursuant to the initiative, a cooperative effort of seven western states and four Canadian provinces, to develop a linked greenhouse gas trading market (Current, Nov. 5, 2010). New Mexico's program may die before it takes effect in 2012. Upon taking office last month, newly elected Republican Governor Susana Martinez quickly fired the environmental board members. She criticized them as being "anti-business" and more interested "in advancing political ideology than implementing common sense policies." Her action came after she called for repeal of the state's cap-and-trade program in her state of the state speech. She called it a "cap-and-tax" plan (Current, Jan. 28, 2011). Bruce Frederick, New Mexico Environmental Law Center staff attorney, maintains that the governor's "attempt to prevent the carbon pollution rule from becoming a valid state law is highly illegal and cannot be tolerated in a democratic society." Meanwhile, two state Republican senators have introduced competing bills--SB 91 by Clinton Harden and SB 190 by Carroll Leavell--to repeal New Mexico's cap-and-trade program. The bills are bottled up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, but could be subjected to a straight up or down vote on the Senate floor if called for by their sponsors. New Mexico's environmental board also could repeal the program, which already faces a court challenge by the local electric utility PNM and other energy companies. Repeal would leave California able to link only with a few Canadian provinces that are part of the initiative that are still moving forward on cap-and-trade. They include British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. The initiative includes the states of Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

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