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My View: Stretching Truth on Governor’s Record on Environment

By David Paulsen | The Santa Fe New Mexican
Bravo, Gov. Susana Martinez!
For adjusting your position on Film and TV. Resuming the subsidies your predecessor offered the industry, which substantially increased production in our state, was smart. You brought back some of the desperately needed dollars our economy lost when you cut them on first taking office. I applaud you for having the courage to change your mind.
Now, the environment. In August, Ryan Flynn, your Environment Secretary, wrote an indignant My View piece. It claimed that Conservation Voters New Mexico, a substantial, honorable, truly reputable organization had distorted “facts” to attack your administration, whose environmental achievements, he contended, were considerable. Unfortunately, the Flynn “facts” weren’t actual facts — just fact-y exaggerations mixed with half-truth-y pronouncements and some, dare I say, blatant untruths.
Flynn wrote that you worked with PNM, the feds and the Navajo Nation to adopt an agreement some described as the “greatest environmental achievement in the history of New Mexico,” a plan they promised would “result in the largest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the history of the state, avoid significant rate increases and diversify the state’s energy portfolio,” all while protecting jobs.
Actually, PNM’s coal and nuclear replacement power plan will drive rate increases, not reductions, of 25 percent to 30 percent by 2018. It’ll create no new jobs in New Mexico; it consumes and pollutes billions of gallons of water, and does little to take advantage of our abundant solar and wind resources — which would create good local jobs, would diversify the portfolio and would use none of our precious water. This agreement, continued Flynn, was supported by leaders of both parties. OK, truthy enough; the leaders did support it. Their goal, though, was to help the state transition away from coal while PNM’s plan is to purchase even more coal from other utilities that are dumping their shares of San Juan. If the governor allows PNM to reinvest more of our money in coal, they’ll be undermining the settlement’s value and severely limiting the lauded diversification of PNM’s portfolio.
Flynn asserts the administration proposed a copper rule that would apply stricter, more consistent guidelines for protecting groundwater beneath copper mines, replacing an outdated system. Actually, the Martinez copper rule weakens water quality protections. It’s basically a blank check for copper mines to pollute groundwater as much as they please. Surprised? Don’t be. The governor pretty much let the mine owners write the bill themselves — a proposed rule that violates state statute to such an extent that the attorney general took the rare step of challenging it in court.
The River Stewards Program! Assertion: The administration created it to improve the health of New Mexico’s rivers and streams. Actually, this program is nothing more than a rebranding of an initiative started by former Gov. Bill Richardson — the River Ecosystem Restoration Initiative. Hardly more than a name change. But there is a difference. Richardson dedicated more than $8.2 million to river restoration projects. Martinez shrank that to a paltry $1.5 million.
Again, though, let’s thank the governor for revamping the state’s film program. We hope she’ll now do something to really improve our environment. Maybe something like boost incentives for homeowners to install solar panelling. New Jersey does it. England and Germany, too, and none of them have a soupçon of the sunlight our skies daily receive. Ah, but she’d have to face down the oil billionaires, so many of whom are the Texans, who’ve been funding her campaigns. Will she? Well, it’d sure be awful nice.
David Paulsen writes from Santa Fe. Paulsen spent his professional career in the entertainment industry, first as an actor on Broadway, London and Chicago’s Second City Company, then as a TV showrunner: 15 years producing, writing and directing Dallas, Knots Landing and Dynasty.