In Other News: NM’s Environmental Victory on Nov. 2

By Tracy Dingmann

On Nov. 2, an important environmental victory occurred that was almost – but not quite – eclipsed by Election Day news in New Mexico.

Perhaps those of you who worry about the specter of manmade climate change heard that the state Environmental Improvement Board met and approved a regional cap and trade program to cut carbon emissions in New Mexico.

The decision puts New Mexico in the forefront of the necessary movement to control carbon emissions, which scientists agree are the major cause of global warming.

In an interview with the New Mexico Business Weekly, Mariel Nanasi of the Santa Fe nonprofit New Energy Economy praised the EIB for approving the most comprehensive greenhouse gas emission reduction rules in the nation.

“It puts New Mexico ahead of the curve,” Nanasi said. “It offers opportunities for clean energy investment and development in the state, which translates into jobs, jobs, jobs.”

From the Business Weekly story on the ruling:

The decision will require about 63 facilities in New Mexico that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually to start cutting emissions by 2 percent per year below 2010 levels, beginning in 2012. The rule applies to stationary sources of emissions, rather than transportation or other sectors. In New Mexico, such stationary facilities mainly include coal- and gas-fired power plants, and oil and gas operations.

The EIB’s decision also authorizes New Mexico’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative, which includes a cap-and-trade program for affected industries. Under that system, businesses that lower emissions faster than required will receive credits that can be sold to industries in other WCI states. The credits could be used to help the slower-moving businesses comply.

Before approving the plan, which was designed and proposed by the New Mexico Environment Department, the board voted unanimously to adopt a cost-containment amendment. Under that clause, if the costs of adopting the rule reach $45 per ton of emissions, the Environment Department must come back to the board with additional cost consideration options, said Sandra Ely, the Department’s energy and environmental coordinator.

The board voted down two other amendments, including one that would have exempted the city of Farmington from the rule. “I’m really impressed with the thoughtfulness of the board–its consideration of industry’s concerns and the cost issues involved,” Ely said. “Each and every board member understood the importance of addressing climate change, but they split on how it should actually be addressed.”

In December, the EIB will meet to consider a carbon cap proposal brought forth by New Energy Economy. That proposal asks the state to implement a statewide cap – you can read more about it here.

It’s not known what the EIB will decide on the NEE proposal. But it’s clear that yesterday’s decision places New Mexico in a much-needed role as a leader in not just climate change awareness – but also in taking real action on climate change.