Thursday, October 06, 2005

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: GOODBYE GAS GUZZLER

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
October 6, 2005


A governor should lead by example, Gov. Bill Richardson told reporters Wednesday. Therefore, in this energy-conscious time in which the high cost of gasoline is on the minds of most citizens, Richardson has decided it’s time to trade in his gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle for something more fuel-efficient.

“We’ve been talking about a hybrid vehicle or a natural-gas vehicle,” Richardson said at a news conference when asked about the SUV he uses for state business.

Two weeks ago, this column pointed out that the governor showed up in his huge Lincoln Navigator — which gets about 13 mpg — for a press conference to talk about the country’s over-dependence on gas and oil.

Richardson’s decision to trade in his Lincoln comes a couple of months after U.S. Rep. Tom Udall bought a Toyota Prius to use in his travels around his northern New Mexico Congressional District.

“He seems to like it a lot,” Udall spokesman Glen Loveland said Wednesday. “It saves a lot on gasoline costs.” The gas-electric hybrid gets 60 mpg in the city, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The Prius is for use in New Mexico,” Loveland said. In Washington, D.C. Udall usually walks from his home to the Capitol, Loveland said.

Richardson, however, said he probably won’t buy a Prius. “I’ll stick with American companies,” Richardson said. A spokesman later told the Associated Press that Ricahrdson is considering a Ford Escape, a hybrid SUV that gets about 36 miles per gallon.

Richardson said that state police, who are charged with protecting the governor, will have a say in what type of vehicle he eventually buys. “Security is a concern,” he said.

Beam me up: Don’t call her “Gail Beam” any more. The nine-year state House member announced Wednesday that she has legally changed her name to the one she was given at birth: Gail Chasey. The next part of her name will remain “D-Albuquerque.”

Chasey, a member of the House Judiciary Committee said the fact that she just started law school at the University of New Mexico had something to do with changing her name.

“This is a time of new beginnings for me,” she said in an e-mail “Going to law school has been a longtime goal of mine. I also feel that the time is right for me to reclaim my birth name, Chasey. Making both changes now seemed like an appropriate synergy in my life.”

She said her name changes honors her mother, who worked for many years at UNM, and her father, an Air Force B-29 pilot in World War II, who died earlier this year.
Chasey is married to former state Attorney General David Norvell.

Gavel me down: When Lt. Gov. Diane Denish calls the state Senate to order for the special session today, she will have one less gavel to chose from which to chose for the task.

Denish gave one of her four gavels to Sonya Carrasco-Trujillo, her former deputy chief of staff who recently became acting Santa Fe municipal judge while the state Judicial Standards Commission investigates suspended Judge Fran Gallegos.

Let’s just hope Denish doesn’t need four gavels during the special session.

Remembering the ‘90s gas wars: Last week in this column, Sen. John Grubesic talked about how state lawyers are no match for high-price oil company lawyers — with their “alligator briefcases” and “private jets” — in trying to prove price gouging.

He recalled how as a rookie lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office was promptly humiliated in court by a small army of Houston lawyers in the early ‘90s.

This was when then-Attorney General Tom Udall was looking into allegations of price fixing by petroleum companies in Santa Fe.

“The industry had strategically filed three separate suits in New Mexico to quash our investigatory subpoenas, and all of them were in oil-and-gas country,” Grubesic said.

Jerry Marshak, an assistant attorney general who was with the office back then, has different memories. The oil companies had filed 35 to 40 cases to stop the attorney general’s subpoenas, Marshak said in an interview last week.

Marshak said he got “roped in” to handle the subpoena cases after Grubesic’s courtroom loss in Carlsbad. Marshak said he convinced the courts to consolidate all the remaining cases, and eventually the courts ruled in his favor.

“The suits and jets lost,” Marshak said.

The battle maybe, but not the war.

While the state got the documents they were seeking, the state never took any legal action concerning gas price fixing.

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