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New Mexico plays musical chairs with regulatory posts, worries industry and environmental groups

Shuffling four state officials to different departments is concerning industry and environmental groups, the Associated Press reported Friday. The job changes involve the heads of the water management division and air quality and hazardous waste bureaus.

Part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s campaign platform was deregulation.

The AP reported that Martinez knew about the changes but that they did not come from her office. On her first day in office, even before being formally sworn in, Martinez issued an executive order to postpone all planned and pending regulations. This was eventually overturned by the state Supreme Court.

Martinez said the changes came from Environment Department Secretary David Martin, who worked as an adjunct professor in the Petroleum Engineering Department at New Mexico Tech before serving in the cabinet-level position.

The Associated Press reported:

Critics of the transfers partly blame a recent small business task force report ordered by Martinez that specifically called out mid-level state employees who were perceived as having anti-business agendas. The report also made other recommendations aimed at making the regulatory process easier for businesses to encourage economic development.

“They want to be a business friendly government, but when they’re taking away the employees that know how to do the job, it makes it difficult,” said Deborah Seligman, a longtime energy lobbyist and former vice president of government affairs for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

The moves come as the government changes from how it was organized under former governor Bill Richardson.

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