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Carbon Cap Hearings Wind Down, Heat Up in Santa Fe



October 6, 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. - Hearings on a proposal to cap and reduce New Mexico's climate change pollution continued to heat up even as they were winding down in Santa Fe on Tuesday. Disputes over perceived conflicts of interest and the economic impacts of shifting to more renewable energy colored what otherwise was a very technical discussion.

Some Republican state lawmakers charged that members of the Environmental Improvement Board holding the hearings have a "green agenda," and should recuse themselves. But former Republican lawmaker, rancher Tweeti Blancett, calls the conflict of interest charges a distraction from the main issue.

"It's not a liberal or conservative issue, it's everybody's issue. And we need to be aware of it, because we all live here together, and we all need to be working together to have the best environment that we can have."

While at least two of the board members have histories of environmental activism, they say they don't stand to profit from the proposed rules in any way. Other board members also have ties to oil and gas and other affected industries in the state.

Opposition to the plan has been led by energy interests and a few other large industry groups, insisting it will drive away business and jobs. On the other hand, Vicki Pozzebon, executive director of the Santa Fe Alliance of local, independent businesses, says many companies she works with see a potential boon in shifting to cleaner sources of energy.

"Our take on it is that it will actually create new jobs, because what we're talking about is expanding into these renewable energy areas that are homegrown, locally-owned, and that support more of the communities through the money that they are multiplying back into our local tax base."

Pozzebon says reducing pollution in the environment would also save businesses money in the long term.

"Cutting down on the cost of health care expenses for people who are working in some of those places in the communities that are supporting the coal-fired plants, and things like that."

The board begins deliberating next month on the proposal from the group New Energy Economy to cut climate change emissions over the next decade. Read it online at www.newenergyeconomy.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM