Last week at the state's hearings on a newly proposed copper rule, I ran into John Bemis, secretary of the state's Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department (EMNRD). ---He (pretty gleefully) mentioned he'd be retiring on Tuesday, but didn't say who would next lead the agency charged with the state's energy development.

In a letter today, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary F David Martin (pictured) let staff know he'll be taking over for Bemis, perhaps as soon as the end of this week.

Meanwhile, Gov. Susana Martinez has passed over Deputy Secretary Butch Tongate and selected NMED’s General Counsel, Ryan Flynn, as the next NMED Cabinet Secretary-designee.

In his letter, Martin notes Flynn has been at NMED for two years and has proven "he has the chops to lead this department into the future."

As SFR reported in January, Flynn has been closely involved in development of the state's newly proposed copper rule—which the state's Water Quality Control Commission is currently considering.

Opponents of the proposed rule, including the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, say it violates the state's Water Quality Act. Opponents are also concerned with how the rule was developed. As SFR reported in January, an initial draft of the rule—written following months of stakeholder meetings and input—was altered.

According to [the New Mexico Environmental Law Center], the proposed copper rule violates the state's Water Quality Act—and bears the inky prints of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., owners of southwestern New Mexico's Tyrone Mine. In a November legal document, the center points out that the proposed rule isn't the result of a public process, as mandated by the state legislature. Rather, Freeport's exemptions were inserted into the rule by the Environment Department's general counsel after the advisory committee drafted an initial rule in August.

General counsel Ryan Flynn came to the department from the Modrall Sperling Law Firm, which has represented Freeport before the Water Quality Control Commission, NMED and the courts—and advocated for provisions similar to the ones that ended up in the latest draft of the copper rule.

In his farewell letter, Martin mentions that Flynn has his full endorsement and adds: "I know that Ryan is passionate about protecting our environment and eager to put his own stamp on the department moving forward."

Stay tuned to SFR for an upcoming cover story about the copper rule.

Here's Martin's farewell letter: