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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  Deregulation Sensation
oil-industry-news-2-06-08-2011

Deregulation Sensation

Documents reveal industry pressure on state policy

June 8, 2011, 12:00 am

Energy efficient building codes aren’t the only regulatory target on Gov. Susana Martinez’ hit list. Industries that contributed heavily to her gubernatorial campaign—oil and gas, dairy, home builders and others—wasted no time delivering a laundry list of Richardson-era regulations to overturn.

The drive to swiftly dismantle these regulations has raised questions about just how much access and influence industry has on the nascent administration.

“Industry has immediate access, and there’s no concern about the environment at all––just an assumption that everything industry says is right,” frequent Martinez adversary Bruce Frederick, a staff lawyer with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, says.

“I don’t know if it goes as far as a quid pro quo––I don’t know what her campaign donations have been or will be in the future—I just know it’s clear she has no concern at all about New Mexico.”


Scott Darnell, spokesman for Martinez says the opposite is true. “The Martinez administration is focused on getting New Mexicans back to work and, therefore, it’s important to ensure that it’s not more expensive to do business and hire workers in New Mexico than it is in surrounding states,” he says. “So, our philosophy is to ensure that regulations are fair and reasonable so that we can get our economy back on track.”


But members of the governor’s Small Business-Friendly Task Force––many of them lobbyists for big industries––met in secret this February to encourage the governor to roll back environmental and other regulations.


SFR recently obtained internal documents (see below for document links) that reveal another secret meeting of industry power brokers early in January. The documents demonstrate strategic involvement by industry representatives with plans to derail pending or existing regulations.


On Jan. 10, Economic Development Department Secretary-designate Jon Barela invited industry leaders and lobbyists to join state staffers for the EDD’s legislative agenda meeting. SFR asked the governor’s office for meeting notes and a list of participants, but no reply was given by press time.


But other records indicate that participants included New Mexico Utility Shareholders Alliance Executive Director and lobbyist Carla Sonntag, then-Public Service Company of New Mexico executive Robert Castillo, and Artesia oilman Frank Yates (Yates serves on the Small Business-Friendly Task Force, as does Sonntag).


In a follow-up memo to Barela, Sonntag provided a detailed list of what she’d like done, including reversing both the pit rule and cap and trade, limiting the scope of the state’s boards and commissions and having New Mexico pull out of the Western Climate Initiative, a regional carbon cap association.


In an intricately detailed “executive summary” sent later to EDD Division Director of International Trade Brent Eastwood, Castillo, who was first with PNM and moved in April to become general manager of Continental Divide Electric Cooperative, outlined a number of legal and administrative scenarios for Martinez to use to reverse the state’s cap and trade decision.


Finally, in yet another communique, Yates says Martinez must make a “cultural change at administrative levels” to be able to successfully roll back regulations. He goes on to argue that companies are the clients of regulatory agencies, effectively pay the salaries of regulators and should be treated accordingly.


But government is supposed to serve the people, not corporations, Frederick says.


“It’s a timeless theme and, really, it’s the definition of corruption. To have government not serving the people but just catering to [corporate] needs? To treat them as if you’re selling something and you want their business? To shift the burden of proof from the regulator to the polluter?”


Ultimately, New Mexicans should be concerned that the state’s industry-backed enthusiasm for deregulation doesn’t appear to be based on any concern for science, public health or even economics, Frederick says.


“There have been no studies from them about how this is going to create jobs––or how pollution is going to create jobs. I think a few people will make more money, but no jobs will be created. And the environment will suffer as a result, and so will public health.”

View documents as .pdf files:

Sonntag Strategy

Economic Development

Yates Memo

 

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