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EIB Decision on Statewide Carbon Cap Coming Today

By Tracy Dingmann

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board is expected to make its final decision sometime today (Dec. 6) on a proposal to reduce statewide carbon emissions.

If approved, the carbon emission rules would apply only to the state’s largest polluters, including power plants, refineries and natural gas processing hubs.

Approval of the proposal would kick-start an economic engine to bring jobs to New Mexico and to showcase the state as a national leader in the area of halting or slowing harmful climate change.

The proposal to reduce carbon pollution is the result of a petition from New Energy Economy (NEE), a New Mexico-based nonprofit organization, and 17 other organizations representing communities, businesses and rural interests.

“Our proposal is about unleashing investment that will drive innovation and create jobs for New Mexico families and communities while demonstrating national leadership,” said New Energy Economy president John Fogarty. “Clean energy is the next Industrial Revolution and we’re in a race to see who will lead that revolution. Let’s stake a claim and make New Mexico the beneficiary of the prosperity that’s there for the taking.”

A Regional Proposal Passed on Nov. 2

A separate cap-and-trade proposal to reduce carbon pollution was already passed by the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) on Election Day, Nov. 2. That proposal was sponsored by the New Mexico Environment Department.

Though the EIB already passed the Environment Department-sponsored rules on Nov. 2, its Dec. 6 vote on the NEE proposal is still important, because the two rules would complement each other in terms of scope and timing.

The NEE proposal calls for a carbon reduction program that would be contained entirely within New Mexico, and would have no trade component, as opposed to the Environment Department rules passed on Nov. 2. That proposal allows New Mexico to enter a regional cap-and-trade program known as the Western Climate Initiative, involving select Western states and Canadian provinces.

If implementation of the Environment Department regulations is delayed for any reason, the NEE-sponsored rules would go into effect and would stay in effect until the delayed Environment Department rules came online.

A decision by the EIB on Dec. 6 would be the culmination of a process begun in December 2008, when the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, acting on behalf of NEE and the other organizations, petitioned the EIB to consider the carbon regulations.

The process was halted in early 2010 in response to a lawsuit from utility and oil and gas interests. NEE appealed the injunction to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which unanimously voted in June to reverse the lower court decision, thereby allowing the EIB to consider the proposed rule.

A summary of the NEE plan is at http://newenergyeconomy.org.

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