- Associated Press - Friday, July 29, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn is stepping down next month, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday.

Flynn’s resignation will take effect on Aug. 12 and Martinez said Deputy Cabinet Secretary Butch Tongate will serve as acting environment department secretary.

Martinez made the announcement after Environment Department spokeswoman Allison Scott Majure confirmed Friday to the Associated Press that Flynn would resign.

In a statement, Flynn said he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and two young daughters.

Martinez appointed Flynn in 2013 to lead the state’s environment department after a retirement forced her to reshuffle her cabinet.

Flynn previous had been the agency’s top lawyer for two years.

He was the administration’s main negotiator for an agreement earlier in 2013 with federal regulators and the state’s largest utility for reducing pollution from a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

During his confirmation hearing, Flynn faced objections of some lawmakers and public-interest groups who questioned his role in the crafting of regulations they said would allow groundwater pollution by copper mines.

“Secretary Flynn has put his heart and soul into protecting our environment and always put New Mexicans first,” Martinez said.

She added: “Under his strong leadership, our administration negotiated the largest settlement in the history of the United States between a state and the Department of Energy, held the EPA accountable during the Gold King Mine spill, and took action on the Kirtland Air Force Base spill. It’s hard to see him leave, but we are proud of the work he has accomplished for this administration.”

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