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New Mexico's New Governor

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Message dick overfield

Things are looking more & more ominous for New Mexico stuck between the belligerent stupidities of Texas & the racist nightmare that Arizona has become.

There is a strong sense that New Mexico has not yet fully realized what happened in the last election cycle. Apart from the internet & bearing in mind that traditionally two out of three New Mexicans define themselves as Democrats, political discourse seems to be flat & skewed to the right. For the most part, we have peanut galleries like the Los Alamos Monitor & the Albuquerque Journal to thank for that. Trying to read the Journal is a bit like wading through a Republican pit toilet each morning. New Mexico is not only a flyover state, but it's a one horse town when it comes to the press.

The new Republican Governor & Texas native, Susana Martinez, whose campaign received huge sums of money from oil & gas interests, has begun her term in office by attacks on environmentalists & the renewable energy sector while enthusiastically genuflecting to the folks who put her in office.

On January 6th, five days after taking the oath, she canceled a state regulation requiring annual 3 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions & a rule intended to control the discharge of waste from dairies in southern New Mexico. By statute, state regulations become final on publication. The measure on cutting emissions by 3 percent was struck on Tuesday, January 4th, when the governor's office instructed a senior official at the state's records center not to publish it in the next state register, to be issued on Jan. 14. The rule, which was adopted in December by the state's Environmental Improvement Board, now appears to have no force. On January 6th, in the New York Times, Felicity Barringer quoted Bruce Frederick, a lawyer for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who called Governor Martinez's action "underhanded" and "illegal," adding: "It's beyond the power of the governor. What she's trying to do is change the result in a case after the judgment has been rendered."

Governor Martinez's right wing extremist supporters expected her to pick a fight with moderates & the left & she is making it very clear she can't wait to start kicking ass. During her campaign for governor, her handlers circulated a story that Martinez carries a .45--& on the same day that her campaign strategists were dodging accusations that an employee forwarded a joke in which a "New Mexican girl" shoots an Arab and a Mexican with her .45! New Mexicans would be well advised to keep a very close eye on their new, right wing governor. We need to ask Governor Martinez just how attached she is to her .45 & what she plans to do with it. We should also ask her how we should understand her support of Palin & whether it extends to Palin's "Target Map" which included Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who, along with a confirmed 18 others injured & 6 dead, was the victim of an attempted assassination in Tucson yesterday. The dead included the chief U.S. district judge John M. Roll who in February, after allowing a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward, received numerous death threats.

The content of any statement from Martinez is easy to predict. She will say the events are deplorable & tragic & she is so looking forward to working with her Democratic colleagues who, fortunately, managed to hold on to a majority in the state legislature. The more important issue is whether she has the political courage to tell us that the story about her .45 is not true, that she does not support the right wing's obsession with guns & violence & that she will no longer support policies that inevitably lead to gun violence & death. Don't hold your breath on this one.

It may be unclear whether she plans to do it with a pistol or legal sleight of hand, or both, but she has clearly decided to purge New Mexico of as many environmental regulations as possible & to eliminate the Richardson administration's efforts to promote renewable energy companies in New Mexico. She has picked paleoconservative, virulent climate change denier, Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, aged 75, to be one of her main kickers. In 2011, based on his "vast" experience exploring the moon in 1972 as a NASA astronaut, he advocates privatizing lunar resources, particularly lunar helium-3 as a fuel for notional nuclear fusion reactors. You think New Mexico's clear night skies produce intense, bright full moons now, just wait until Martinez & Jack Schmitt turn loose their cowboys up there!

OK, so Martinez is obviously making a Palinesque grab for media attention here & clearing up some political debts. Fine.

More importantly, Martinez & Schmitt have turned sucking up to oil companies into not only a lifestyle, but a religion. Schmitt, who has published no peer reviewed work on climate change, is chairman & president of the Annapolis Center, whose avowed mission is to promote responsible energy & environmental, health & safety policies through the use of sound science. This, from an organization that disputes the connection between air pollution & asthma, minimalizes the negative effects of mercury pollution, & wants us to think pesticide residues on food are OK to feed to our kids. In 1998, while honoring Senator James Inhofe for his work in "promoting science-based public policy," ExxonMobil handed Schmitt & friends a check for $973,500. In addition, Schmitt was a keynote speaker at both the Heartland Institute's 2009 and 2010 International Conference on Climate Change. Here are a few numbers showing where Schmitt & friends got the money for their 2010 conference:

ExxonMobil (1998-2006): $6,199,000
Koch Foundations (1986-2006): $4,438,920
Scaife Foundations (1985-2006): $36,868,640
Grand Total: $47,506,560

Another sop to the fossil-fuel business comes with the Martinez nomination of F. David Martin, M.S., an obscure adjunct associate professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department at New Mexico Tech, as Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). His bailiwick is efficiency in EOR, or enhanced oil recovery .

What does that mean? It means he will help Martinez's oil & gas industry backers maximize the amount of oil & gas they get out of wells. It has been estimated that EOR techniques which include hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, injecting gases (CO2, natural gas, nitrogen & others), chemicals, microbes, & various forms of heat into wells could mean some 240 billion barrels of additional oil for consumers. What does that have to do with the environment? The answer is something New Mexicans need to think about long & hard. Fracking is an important part of EOR. It has been linked to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, earthquakes & ground water pollution around the world. It is banned by many countries. (See Rady Ananda, recent Arkansas earthquakes) The EPA classifies at least 65 of the chemicals used in fracking as hazardous or toxic because they have been linked to cancer of the liver, kidneys, & brain as well as many respiratory diseases. (So, whatever you do during your vacation in Jeb Bush's Florida, don't go swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.) EOR procedures bring large quantities of a toxic soup, including brine, to the surface. The brine may contain metals and radioactive substances, as well as being very salty. This can be damaging to drinking water sources and the environment generally. The Environmental Protection Agency, which Republicans want to eliminate, wants oil companies to put all that stuff back in the ground. Putting all that toxic crud back in to hydraulically fractured strata could easily increase the possibilities of serious earthquakes like those we are seeing in Arkansas. BP didn't have to do that to trigger the Gulf disaster, the ocean did it for them. Will Martinez make sure Martin & his friends manage all this properly? Will Martinez appoint someone to check on her friends & make sure they do that? Do we want them to be doing this kind of thing in the first place? Quien sabe?

So, aside from believing Republicans grow fat & sassy on pesticide residues, what is Martinez saying to us? She has made a few things very clear. One is that her administration will do whatever it takes to be an effective instrument to enrich her oil & gas industry supporters? How? She plans to deregulate & turn over New Mexico's natural resources, a part of the commons which belongs to all New Mexicans & indirectly to all of us who call this continent our home, to a few wealthy & influential individuals in the private sector. She has made it very clear she will make it very difficult for anyone outside her oil & gas backers to interfere. She plans to continue the right wing attack on public services such education & healthcare. While most New Mexicans want to see their government as a voice of egalitarian values serving the public interest, she is making it clear her ideal government would be reduced to a unilateral tool dedicated to the increase & protection of the privileges of capital, wealth & power.

Is this really what New Mexicans voted for when they elected Martinez?

We can only hope Bruce Frederick has it right & Governor Martinez has broken the law her first week in office & we can begin impeachment proceedings immediately. If we can't do that, maybe we can get her term annulled, or pay her to return to Texas, or take a shot at Lt. Governor of Arizona where she would fit right in. Just think of all the destruction & suffering New Mexicans would not have to endure if it was successful.

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Richard W. Overfield is an artist/writer currently based in New Mexico after living in Vancouver, Canada for 20 years.His paintings are represented in over 300 public & private collections in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, France, England, Japan & (more...)
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