New Mexico Environmental Law Center attorneys have gone to the state’s appeals court seeking to overturn a decision by appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez to roll back a climate change law opposed by the oil/gas industry. The law was passed two years ago in a Democratic administration before Martinez, a Republican, took office.

The environmental groups’ appeal attempts to reverse actions earlier this year by the Martinez-appointed state Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) that terminated New Mexico’s participation in the Western Climate Initiative and a limited carbon emissions by oil/gas producers and electric generation plants. Industry groups had strongly opposed the limits on carbon dioxide emissions, which were enacted during Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, which supported the EIB actions, has not decided if it will file anything in response to the law center’s appeal, according to a spokesperson contacted by NGI. “It is unclear what this means; on the surface they appear to just making some noise, but we will take a look at the filing, and our lawyers will determine if any action is needed,” the spokesman said.

Under New Mexico’s air quality laws, the appeals court should set aside EIB’s actions if it finds that they are somehow “arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of its discretion,” or the action was not supported by “substantial evidence” or the state laws. The law center contends that the EIB violated all of these criteria.

At issue is the EIB’s repeal of what is designated as Rule 100, which would require large stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions — oil/gas producers and electric generation plants — to limit their emissions. The energy industry operators would have to substantially lower their carbon emissions.

“This appeal presents the unusual situation in which an administrative agency [EIB] repealed [an action] less than 18 months after adopting it, before the regulation took effect,” said the law center’s filing. “EIB adopted Rule 100 in December 2010 after conducting a two-year rulemaking pursuant to its authority under the New Mexico Air Quality Control Act and the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Act.”

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