New Mexico Wants to Solve the Problem "Ourself"

Marita Noon
Issue CCLVII - August 7, 2010
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"What we can't do is allow a patchwork of 50 different states, or cities or localities, where anybody wants to make a name for themselves suddenly says, 'I'm going to be anti-immigrant, and I'm going to try to see if I can solve the problem ourself.'" (sic) So said President Obama on CBS’ Early Show.
Arizona has not been allowed to follow through with an immigration law of its own. Yet, New Mexico thinks it can push through its own carbon cap regulations.
Arizona enacted their own law out of frustration regarding the lack of federal enforcement for existing immigration laws. In New Mexico those who believe that greenhouse gases must be stopped are hoping to implement their own rules because of frustration that nothing is being done on the federal level—a frustration that must be ramped up with Harry Reid’s announcement that Senate Democrats are officially abandoning their seven-year effort to pass cap and trade.
In Arizona’s situation—agree or disagree—they have borders that can be secured. Fences can be built, personnel can physically guard against the flow of immigrants that come into America, and the “flow” is tangible—you can grab illegal immigrants, handcuff them, and take them back to Mexico.
In New Mexico, like Arizona, groups have spent months preparing for a showdown. In New Mexico, the issue at hand is not immigration, but greenhouse gas emissions. The New Energy Economy (NEE) has been working with the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) (stacked with Governor Richardson’s appointees apt to be favorable to the regulation) to put a New-Mexico-only carbon cap into place. Meanwhile groups concerned about the economy and job creation, such as the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Home Builders Association, Albuquerque Economic Development, the Rio Grande Foundation, and the organization I lead, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, have been working to spread the word about the dangers of the potential regulation.
Arizona made a rule with the aim of protecting the state by securing its borders. In New Mexico, the aim is to protect the state by making our own rules that apply only within our borders.
The difference is that what we hope to contain in New Mexico can’t be contained. Greenhouses gases do not stop at the border. Even if we were to stop all greenhouse gases from being emitted within our state, they will still cross our borders. We cannot grab the offending gases that may sneak into our state. They cannot be handcuffed and returned. The air flows freely, and we cannot stop it. Satellite images show China’s air making its way across the Pacific and into America. What would make us think, as President Obama said, that we can “solve the problem ourself?”
Clearly, the Senate doesn’t think it has the public support to push cap-and-trade through—even though if all Democrats voted for it they could pass it. Members of the House of Representatives who did vote-for-cap and trade last year, such as New Mexico’s Harry Teague, are now trying to distance themselves from the vote to save their seats. (Ben Ray Lujan and Maritn Heinrich also voted for cap and trade, but they are still working to push various energy-killing, cost-increasing bills such as the CLEAR Act (HR 3534).)
One of the major reasons for the demise of a federal-level cap-and-trade is the damage the legislation would do to the economy. Reports indicate that the Kerry-Lieberman compromise bill would create cumulative GDP loses of $2.1 trillion through 2030 and consumer electricity price increases of up to 42%. As we have seen through consumer outrage over New Mexico’s rate increases, there is not public support for increasing energy costs.
The EIB is holding a hearing on August 16th at 10:00AM in Santa Fe to allow members of the public to express their opinion regarding the proposed statewide carbon cap. Everyone who cares about New Mexico’s economic development should be there! There is never a good time to intentionally raise the cost of the single item that is central to everything that makes America uniquely American—and now, with an economy teetering on the brink of disaster, is the worst possible time.
If the NEE and EIB do succeed in pushing through the proposed cost-increasing legislation, like Arizona’s law, it will undoubtedly go to court. The response is likely to be “What we can't do is allow a patchwork of 50 different states, or cities or localities.”

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