2021 Legislative Priorities
By: Ben Shelton, Political & Policy Director
The 2021 Session will be – like just about everything else these days – unprecedented. The social distancing that the risk of COVID requires will drastically change the way that the annual policymaking process proceeds. Instead of our legislative team being in the building every day, we’ll have to find a way to ensure that legislators are aware of our legislative priorities. Rest assured, however, we’ll still be analyzing every bill introduced for conservation impact and keeping you informed about what’s moving, what’s not, and how you can get involved.
Given the outcome of the state legislative races, we will have a strong conservation base in the House and the Senate. We’ve been working on several bills over the last few months that we’re excited to see in the 2021 legislative session:
• Community Solar – We have had extensive discussions about this bill during the interim with Senator Liz Stefanics and Rep. Patricia Roybal- Caballero. “Community solar” will allow regular citizens to subscribe to receive energy from solar projects. This is a particularly useful tool for people who don’t have access to rooftop solar, including renters or people who live in apartments.
• Public Lands and Water – This year we’ll be running a package of bills supporting protection, expansion, and access to public lands in New Mexico. This part of the agenda will likely continue to change, but includes the following bills, as of this writing:
• The Environmental Database Act– This bill would require New Mexico state agencies to pool their environmental impact data (such as the location of oil and gas wells, discharge points for water pollutants, critical habitat for endangered species, etc.) in one place to make it easier for the public and other agencies to determine environmental impacts around the state.
• Water Management Reform – This bill will include elements designed to start modernizing the state’s water management infrastructure and practices. It will include several minor changes such as changing the professional requirements for the State Engineer, updating the state water code, and other overdue fixes.
We expect to see other conservation-related bills by the time the session starts, so stay tuned!
• Budget – We’ve been working with agencies, legislators and allies on the state budget almost since the conclusion of the 2020 legislative session and the collapse of oil and gas prices forced a drastic change to budget projections. Ensuring that our environmental regulators have sufficient funding is essential to translating recent and upcoming wins into effective action.