2023 – A Tale of Two Legislatures
Conservation was a big winner, climate legislation largely failed
SANTA FE – The 2023 legislative session ended today on a strongly mixed note. Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) saw two priority bills move to the Governor’s desk: HB 4 – Voting Rights Act, and SB 9 – Create Permanent Legacy Fund. However, several other priority bills, all related to the transition to a renewable energy, zero-emission economy, failed. [Read CVNM’s Legislative Agenda]
“Passage of the Voting Rights Act, HB 4, is a huge victory for the people of New Mexico who deserve easy and equitable voting access so they have a say in who represents them and their needs,” said CVNM Executive Director Demis Foster. “We are also thrilled about passage of SB 9 and other conservation bills this session and look forward to continued work with our conservation allies, the administration, and the legislature to protect our natural heritage for generations to come. But it is unfortunate that there was a failure to pass the foundational legislation needed for an equitable zero-emission economy that addresses the root cause of climate change. This marks the second session in a row of little action, and New Mexico has now fallen behind other states’ progress on climate. We cannot lose momentum in addressing climate change and we will continue to work with allies across New Mexico’s diverse communities and with our pro-environment legislators to pass the legislation needed to protect our communities.”
“SB 9 – Create Legacy Permanent Funds was a priority for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her administration and marks a foundational shift for conservation in New Mexico,” said CVNM Senior Advocate, Lands, Water & Wildlife Greg Peters. “It and a number of other successful bills that address wildfire and wildlife management, water planning, agency reform, and better access to federal funding, are the result of several years of coalition building with organizations representing tribes, hunters and anglers, farmers and ranchers, and public lands and outdoor recreation organizations that coalesced around a shared, bipartisan goal. The work done this session will unleash funding, provide many good-paying jobs and careers, and better protect our lands, waters and wildlife for years to come.”
Among the climate priorities for CVNM were SB 520 – Clean Future Act, SB 418 – Oil and Gas Act Reform, and HB 188 – Energy Transition Division. There were many other bills dealing with smaller pieces of the energy transition and climate action that also failed.
“Climate legislation this session would have provided access to massive amounts of federal energy transition and environmental justice funding, creating thousands of jobs and protecting the environment and community health, the same broad outcomes touted by supporters of conservation-related bills,” said Ben Shelton, CVNM Political & Policy Director. “Despite this, no real, tangible, transformative emission reduction policy, addressing the root cause of climate change, was able to get through the Legislature. We have heard loud and clear from New Mexicans across the state that climate action needs to move forward as soon as possible. We urge our legislative leaders to hear their plea.”
Over the past four years, New Mexico has taken significant steps to address the climate crisis through rulemakings limiting methane and ozone precursor pollution from the oil and gas industry, and adoption of clean car standards. In addition, the legislature enacted community solar legislation, and adopted a policy in 2019 ensuring New Mexico’s energy production will be sourced by 100% clean energy by 2045.
“Many organizations and communities have been working on crafting durable and effective climate legislation,” said Climate & Energy Advocate Samantha Kao. “The conversations this session have been tough, reflecting how critical effective and timely climate action is, but they have also helped build trust and foster a broader and more diverse movement. We look forward to continuing those discussions as quickly as possible and lay out a path toward an equitable zero-emission economy centered around the needs of impacted communities.”
The legislature passed SB 53, which prevents permitting for “temporary” storage of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico unless two conditions are met: the state must consent, and no such facility can be constructed in New Mexico until a permanent repository, as defined under federal statute, is in operation.
“Any ‘interim’ facility would likely become a permanent one due to the immense cost and risk of removing, transporting, and storing the radioactive material once a supposed permanent location were identified and approved,” said Water Quality & Land Restoration Advocate Doug Meiklejohn. “New Mexico’s communities have regularly become sacrifice zones for uranium and other mining and the southeastern part of the state is already known as the nation’s ‘nuclear corridor’. Conservation Voters New Mexico is grateful to the Legislature for taking this step to protect our beautiful state.”
There were other small victories in the session, although for particular communities some of these were quite important. This includes appropriations to help communities recover from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire and efforts to address acequia restoration and water scarcity and infrastructure. Other successes included certain renewable energy-related credits in the tax package, and creating a renewable energy office in the State Land Commission. There was also modest progress on the budget, with significant improvements in process and outcomes for regulators and agencies, including $100 million earmarked for an energy transition for which there is no overarching framework or significant statutory authority.
CVNM’s ClimateActionNowNM website highlights a number of accomplishments by state leaders, and a full slate of recommendations for next steps. Learn more by visiting the website at https://www.ClimateActionNowNM.org.
CVNM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization connecting the people of New Mexico to their political power to protect our air, land, and water for a healthy Land of Enchantment. CVNM does this by mobilizing voters, winning elections, holding elected officials accountable and advancing responsible public policies.