New Mexico Poltics:

By Walt Rubel / Sun-News

Posted: 09/19/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

This week’s column involves global climate change
and a proposed cap-and-trade program, but it’s not
really about that.

Rather, it is about good government and whether
sweeping changes that would impact every resident
and business in the state should be made by elected
officials who are accountable to the voters, or by a
small, appointed board.

In Washington, D.C., a federal cap-and-trade bill
passed in the House of Representatives on June 26,
2009, but has languished in the Senate ever since,
and will die at the end of the session if no action is
taken. Should that happen, it would be a huge
disappointment to those who believe climate change
is an existential threat, and worked so hard to get a
bill through the House.

But, it would also likely reflect the will of the
majority. And, if voters are upset, they can elect new
members to ensure that the bill gets through next
time.

In New Mexico, we don’t have to fuss with the messy
process of legislation. Instead, we have delegated
this issue to the Environmental Improvement Board –
a seven-member body appointed by the governor.
On the current board, five members are from Santa
Fe, one is from Albuquerque and one, Abbas
Ghassemi, is from Las Cruces.

The board is responsible for “the promulgation of
rules and standards” for, among other things, food
protection, water supply, liquid waste, air quality
management, radiation control, occupational health
and safety, hazardous waste and solid waste.

No small feat for a board

that typically meets once a month.

Earlier this month, the board meet in Las Cruces to
consider two proposals regulating large-scale
greenhouse gas emitters in New Mexico. Like all
cap-and-trade bills, both would allow those that fall
short of meeting the proposed requirement to
purchase allowances from those that exceed the
standard.

A final decision is expected in November or
December. Which is convenient, because, while Gov.
Bill Richardson is a strong supporter of state
emissions standards, the candidates running to
replace him – Democrat Diane Denish and
Republican Susana Martinez – are both vehemently
opposed.

Meanwhile, the State Environment Department is
proposing sweeping new regulation for about 700
miles of rivers and streams, 29 lakes and more than
4,900 acres of wetlands in a dozen wilderness
areas. An amendment would add another 800 miles
of waterways.

It is something Richardson has been pushing for
since 2008. Last week the Supreme Court gave its
approval for hearings to begin.

I’m not questioning the merits of either proposal.
I’m all for clean air and water. But I do question

whether such important changes should be made byappointed boards in the final months of a lame-duck administration.

Walter Rubel has been a newsman for more than 25
years and is managing editor of the Sun-News. He
can be reached at wrubel@lcsun-news.com.

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