Newly elected New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has made a series of troubling moves since taking office last month, from proposing the elimination of a crucial state women’s services commission to making her first priority the revocation of illegal immigrants’ driver’s licenses. But the Tea Party-backed governor’s selection of Harrison Schmitt to head the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, which oversees all environmental matters in New Mexico, is the most disturbing action to date.
Schmitt, a retired astronaut and former U.S. Senator, has said he believes the leaders of the environmental movement are communists, and that when these communist environmentalists are appointed to government positions, citizens need to “wake up” and “take control of their government again.” The New Mexico Independent has flagged this interview Schmitt gave to crank radio host Alex Jones in 2009:
SCHMITT: Number one we’ve been concerned with the misuse of science, but I think more fundamentally, this misuse of science has lead to politicians and ideologues to try to gain control of the American economy, and indeed the global economy, by scaring people….I think that there are individuals, [Obama science czar John] Holdren apparently among them, a very large number who have taken — shall we say captured the environmental movement and turned it into what was previously considered the communist movement. And that’s just something that people of common sense are going to continue to have to counter and wake up enough so that they can take control of their government again. [...]
I think the whole trend really began with the fall of the Soviet Union. Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement. That’s not to say there aren’t some major and significant environmental issues, particularly at the local level, but they converted environmental activism to a political movement and some would say a religious movement.
Schmitt also engaged in extensive denials of climate change science, and claimed that there has been steady warming of the Earth every year since 1660. Presenting his evidence, Schmitt said, “If you want to read some of the history of the American Revolutionary War, you will realize how damn cold it was back then. And we were just moving out of the little ice age very slowly, and it was very cold.”
As the Wonk Room noted earlier this month when reporting on Schmitt, Martinez has taken other steps to eliminate science-based government from her state, like nominating global warming denier Jon Barela to head the Department of Economic Development.
Martinez’s appointment of Schmitt to oversee New Mexico’s environmental matters is nothing short of shocking. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department is charged with “mak[ing] our state a leader in developing reliable supplies of energy, and energy efficient technologies and practices, with a balanced approach toward conserving our renewable and non-renewable resources” and aims to “protect the environment and ensure responsible reclamation of land and resources affected by mineral extraction.” Martinez said she wants Schmitt’s first order of business to be reviewing regulations on oil companies put in place by her predecessor, former Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
Gov. Martinez was asked about Schmitt’s views by the Santa Fe New Mexican, and said she hadn’t heard the Jones interview: “What’s important here is that (Schmitt) is a NASA scientist,” the governor said. “He is a graduate from Harvard, and what is important is that he is going to perform the agenda of my administration. We are going to ensure that we keep the environment safe, that we provide common sense for decisions that are being made, that we don’t make decisions based on politics and ideology.” She added that she does not believe environmentalists are communists.