by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, February 3, 2011
Gov. Susana Martinez got flak in January when she issued an executive order halting two key environmental rules. One requires that New Mexico decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent every year. The other sets a number of infrastructure requirements for the state’s dairy industry, such as synthetic barriers in manure lagoons to prevent groundwater contamination.
Results from a public information request suggest the dairy industry, which contributed nearly $50,000 to Martinez’ gubernatorial run, may have had a hand in crafting her executive order.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center, representing several local advocacy groups, filed the public information request on Jan. 5 before suing the governor, the secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico state records administrator [“Guv Sued Over Eco Rules,” Jan. 20-26]. The request unearthed e-mails between Brian Moore, policy planning director of Martinez’ transition team, and members of the dairy industry.
Walter Bradley, dairy industry lobbyist and former lieutenant governor under Gov. Gary Johnson, sent an e-mail to Moore on Jan. 13:
“Our attorneys (for the Dairy Group) Dal Moellenberg and TJ Trujillo of Gallagher & Kennedy drafted some language for the ex. order. We all assumed the environmental groups would sue and obviously they have." He goes on to say they are willing to help defend the rule-halting and suggests Moore’s lawyers call his lawyers.
An earlier Jan. 3 e-mail shows Trujillo offering specifics on how to halt the dairy rules.
The Governor’s Office denies that Trujillo and Moellenberg had anything to do with the executive order. Martinez’ spokesperson, Scott Darnell, wrote this statement: "While the dairy industry did voice concerns about regulations, offered suggestions to help address these issues and made their lawyers available to the transition team, none of these offers were ever accepted or even seen by those responsible for drafting the executive order.” Blair did not respond to further requests for comment.
Bradley, Trujillo and Moellenberg did not return calls for comment.
Bruce Frederick, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law Center, says the e-mails give the appearance of “straight pay-to-play.” He says if dairy industry members did have a hand in the executive order, Martinez wasn’t necessarily doing anything illegal, but he still finds her actions worrisome.
The New Mexico Supreme Court sided with the center on Jan. 26, compelling the state records administrator to print the dairy and greenhouse gas rules. “They did exactly what they needed to do,” says Frederick about the court’s decision. “It was a straightforward application of the state constitution and rule of law.” Though the dairy industry’s involvement may not have been against the law, what the governor was trying to do with her executive order was illegal, adds Frederick.
Martinez’ office released a statement on the court’s ruling, saying when the emissions regulations are published is inconsequential since they don’t take effect until 2013. “In the meantime, a new [Environmental Improvement Board] will be appointed consisting of bipartisan members who we fully expect will put science ahead of political ideology in every matter they consider.”
Martinez fired all seven members of the Environmental Improvement Board around the same time she issued her executive order. The board has the power to appeal the rule in court. Martinez appointed seven new members, who, as of press time, were awaiting Senate confirmation.
Phil Sisneros, spokesperson for the attorney general, says if his office had been asked, it would have recommended the governor have the rules revoked by the board instead of trying to halt them herself in the first place. Since she is re-creating the board with her own appointees, he says, "generally that means they do what the governor wants.”