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Foul legacy – Martinez and the politics of pollution

By July 27, 2014September 27th, 2022Public Lands, Water & Wildlife, Democracy, Climate & Energy

By Victor Reyes, CVNM Political Director | MyView | The Santa Fe New Mexican
In Conservation Voters New Mexico’s 2013-14 Conservation Scorecard, we report the votes cast on the most critical issues affecting our air, land and water during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, as well as an evaluation of Gov. Susana Martinez’s conservation performance.
For championing the wishes of polluting industries at the expense of public health and safety, Martinez scored an “F.” Although Martinez ran for governor claiming to be a moderate who shared the values of New Mexicans about the importance of safeguarding our water and natural resources, her record has proven otherwise.
In stark but accurate terms: Gov. Martinez has repeatedly and aggressively championed polluting industries at the expense of the health and safety of New Mexicans. There aren’t enough pages in this entire paper to fully recount the litany of actions the Martinez administration has taken that jeopardize our air, land and water. But we’ll do our best to highlight a few.
In a water-scarce state, we simply can’t afford to risk contamination of any of our precious water. Martinez doesn’t seem to care about that, as demonstrated by her decisions to:

  • Gut the “Pit Rule” that governed the management of dangerous waste from oil and gas operations. Now, New Mexico will be home to vast artificial lakes of toxic fracking fluids.
  • Allow copper mining companies wide latitude to pollute our groundwater, setting a legal precedent for other industries to do the same.

Sadly, the story is the same when it comes to energy and climate. Martinez routinely chooses the private profits of corporate campaign contributors over clean air for our children to breathe, and tackling the climate change that is already exacerbating drought and devastating wildfires in New Mexico.
Among other actions, Martinez:

  • Repealed a rule that would have reduced New Mexico’s carbon pollution.
  • Opposed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to clean up the air surrounding San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant.

The efforts of Martinez to weaken environmental protections go far beyond rewriting rules and opposing common-sense legislation. They pervade every aspect of the culture and governance of environmental agencies. Some examples:

  • Scientific and technical expertise is shunned. Scientists who are the leading experts in their field are summarily reassigned to departments with which they have little to no experience — leaving many agency functions without capable representation.
  • Willful disregard for the law. In addition to writing new rules that violate state environmental laws (for example, the “copper rules”), the Martinez administration has seen many of its decisions reversed by the courts because of failure to comply with the law. One example is the unlawful decision by Martinez not to publish rules that she didn’t agree with — even though the rules were duly adopted before she took office.
  • Enforcement is virtually nonexistent. For a career prosecutor, one might imagine that Martinez might at least prove vigilant about enforcing existing laws. On the contrary, enforcement actions such as fines and penalties for violations are down dramatically from prior administrations.

It is difficult to imagine a governor with a more atrocious record than Susana Martinez when it comes to safeguarding our air and water. For most New Mexicans, protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink is paramount. For Martinez, those goals conflict with the profits of her corporate backers, and she’s made her choice: profits over people (Read more at
Victor Reyes of Santa Fe is the political director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization connecting New Mexicans to their political power to protect our air, land and water.