Tuesday, February 1, 2011

GOP walks out on oil, gas debate

Energy-panel chairman Egolf scoffs at drama, denies playing politics

Trip Jennings | The New Mexican
Posted: Monday, January 31, 2011

"Six Republican lawmakers marched out of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, the first skirmish of what could turn into a war over environmental and energy legislation this legislative session.

Provoking the GOP lawmakers' ire was the committee chairman, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, whom they accused of playing political games by dressing up propaganda as facts during what was billed as an informational session on the state's oil-and-gas industry.

"This is something — for the chairman of the committee to give a black eye to the industry," Rep. William Gray, R-Artesia, said of Monday's meeting.

Egolf responded in turn, accusing the GOP lawmakers of overdramatizing the pique they felt.

"They're doing a little show for you," Egolf said of the GOP walkout. "This is not real. This is just them trying to feed into this absurd notion that we're unfair on the committee. It's ridiculous."

Monday's drama served to illustrate the potential for combustible debates, and also for partisan gridlock, on a key legislative committee that is likely to hear important as well as controversial pieces of legislation during this year's 60-day session. A similar walkout in the future, for example, could stymie legislation on the 12-member committee, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Based on Monday's theatrics and the legislation likely to wind up before the committee in coming weeks, future conflict seems assured.

One bill likely to come before the committee would repeal greenhouse-gas emissions rules that were adopted in the final months of former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. Meanwhile, representatives of the state's oil-and-gas industry have publicly said they're worried that Egolf's chairmanship of the committee might complicate Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's desire to roll back environmental regulations promulgated during Richardson's years in office. " More>>>>


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