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Las Cruces Area Legislators in CVNM’s 2015-2016 Conservation Scorecard

By August 4, 2016November 29th, 2022Press Releases, Accountability, Legislature

**Full Scorecard Available Here**

Santa Fe, N.M. – Today, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) released the statewide Conservation Scorecard for the 52nd legislature. In the Scorecard, CVNM reports the votes cast on the most critical issues affecting our air, land, water, health and communities during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. The 2015-2016 Scorecard also includes an analysis of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn’s record on the environment in his first two years in office.
The average conservation score earned by Las Cruces area senators in the 2015-2016 Scorecard is 61%, three percentage points below the Senate-wide average. The average conservation score earned by Las Cruces area representatives in the 2015-2016 Scorecard is 47%, one percentage point below the House-wide average.
“Working alongside communities to ensure that their voices are the ones heard in the Capitol is the key to addressing the myriad environmental injustices around the state,” said Ben Shelton, CVNM Political and Legislative Director. “From the respiratory health crisis in the South Valley of Albuquerque, to the methane hotspot in the Four Corners area, to keeping local control of our public lands, New Mexico communities are (and have been) desperately in need of more focus from legislators in Santa Fe. Finding more ways to elevate community voices is a priority for CVNM moving forward.”
Las Cruces area legislators sit on legislative committees that vote on critical conservation measures during the legislative sessions. That means they take many votes on issues impacting air, land, water and communities. Here are a few specific noteworthy votes:

  • Senator Bill Soules and Representatives Jeff Steinborn and Doreen Gallegos were the only three Las Cruces area legislators to vote against Senate Memorial (SM) 34 and House Memorial (HM) 40, respectively. A vote against these measures is the pro-conservation position.
    • SM 34 (2016) and HM 40 (2016) authorize the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance to construct a consolidated interim storage facility for the storage of spent nuclear fuel rods from commercial (for-profit) nuclear power generation plants.
  • Lee Cotter has the dubious distinction of being the only Las Cruces area legislator to vote against Senate Bill (SB) 94 and the only area legislator that voted on SB 467 to vote against it. A vote against these bills is the anti-conservation position.
    • SB 94 (2015) would have provided for licensing of the growing, selling and processing of industrial hemp in New Mexico. Industrial hemp is an incredibly versatile, fast-growing and drought-resistant agricultural product that requires virtually no pesticides or herbicides. It can be used to produce paper, textiles, plastics, fuel and food products, and has proven very profitable for farmers in other countries.
    • SB 467 (2015) would have depoliticized water planning and management in New Mexico by limiting the number of appointments from the Governor’s office to the Interstate Stream Commission to four members and by requiring that no single political party have more than four members. Additionally, the bill required professional qualifications of appointees in water resources fields and representation by a variety of water users across the state.
  • Cotter joined Reps. Andy Nunez and John Zimmerman as the only Las Cruces area legislators to vote against pro-conservation SB 391.
    • SB 391 (2016) would have extended the existing 10% tax credit for the installation of commercial, residential and agricultural solar systems, which is set to expire December 31, 2016. This 10% tax credit has helped many New Mexicans invest in solar energy for their homes, businesses and farms, improving the environment and public health by reducing the demand for coal-fired electricity.
  • Of all the senators who voted on House Bill (HB) 87, Sens. Soules and Joseph Cervantes and Rep. Steinborn were the only three Las Cruces area legislators that voted against it. A vote against this bill is the pro-conservation position.
    • HB 87 (2015) would have provided the Water Quality Control Commission with overly broad authority to decide the location of public hearings that they conduct. This would have created the possibility for hearings to be conducted in a location that makes attendance difficult or impossible for communities most affected by proposed regulations or water quality standards.
  • Steinborn was the only Las Cruces area legislator that voted against anti-conservation HB 285 of those who took a vote on it.
    • HB 285 (2016) was a greenwashed tax break for the oil and gas industry. The carbon savings that the bill tried to advertise were overstated.

The 2015-2016 Scorecard includes votes on 16 Senate and 24 House pieces of legislation on critical issues that New Mexico’s decision-makers faced in the 52nd legislature. Along with this information, the 2015-2016 Conservation Scorecard features:

  • An Executive Summary by CVNM Political and Legislative Director Ben Shelton highlighting successes and challenges the conservation community faced during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions
  • In the Issue Spotlight, we take a deep dive into the five-bill push to strip away, or pre-empt, the ability of local governments to make decisions to protect their land and water in the 2015 session and the repercussions of the failure of the solar tax credit extension in the 2016 session
  • Stories of critical moments for conservation during the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions

Here are just a few examples of harmful measures CVNM worked with allied organizations and legislators to successfully defeat. These measures would have:

  • Extended additional tax breaks to the oil and gas industry, despite the severe budget deficit the state faces (HB 107, HB 285/SB 34, 2016)
  • Replace the elected Public Regulation Commission (PRC) with a commission appointed by the governor, with certain safeguards in place to prevent overly political appointments. While there are certainly flaws in the electoral process, it is a more transparent venue than that of appointed positions. (HJR 8, 2016)
  • Taken voting rights away from thousands of New Mexicans who are most impacted by environmental degradation (HB 340, 2015)
  • Removed New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to provide 20% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020 (HB 445, 2015)

CVNM also advocated for pro-active legislation. Here are two examples:

  • Pollution, like legacy waste sites from uranium mining, not only endangers natural resources but also poses severe risks to public health. However, there is currently no process in place to study the impacts that environmental degradation has on the quality of health over time. HB 494 and SB 610 (2015) began to address this by creating a community health study fund, paid for by fines assessed to companies directly responsible for contamination.
  • Extending existing tax credits to homeowners for installing solar power on their homes, making solar more affordable to more New Mexican families and supporting one of the few job-creating industries in NM (SB 392, 2015, HB 26/SB 13, 2016)

CVNM’s 2015-2016 Conservation Scorecard is available online via a fully interactive website at Print versions are available upon request.
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, helping candidates win elections, holding elected officials accountable and advancing responsible public policies.
Contact: Liliana Castillo, 505-992-8683 or