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NM’s 2018 legislative session: what we did with our members’ support

By February 16, 2018Legislature

The 2018 legislative session has ended. We’re so thankful our members were on the roller coaster ride with us the whole time, taking action to protect our air, land, water and healthy communities. We really can’t thank you enough!
Now that the hectic session is over, here is a report back on what we accomplished together.

Community leaders participate in a Spanish-language advocacy training on Environment Day at the State Capitol.

We’re excited to share a story of community members speaking up for their families and neighbors at the State Capitol. Many New Mexico parents have seen their children become sick from diesel emissions. School districts across the state have fleets of aging dirty diesel school buses, and New Mexico is receiving an $18 million settlement from Volkswagen to tackle diesel pollution projects. In partnership with community leaders whose kids have been impacted, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) developed legislative memorials to demonstrate the legislature’s support to use those funds to transition to clean electric buses.These community members then worked with Juntos: Our Air, Our Water and their neighbors to travel to the State Capitol on Environment Day and the final days of session to testify in support of the memorials in both Spanish and English. They shared their stories about how their families are impacted by diesel pollution from school buses every day and urged the legislature to use funds earmarked for this purpose to address the issue. Senate Memorial 112 passed the Senate Education Committee but there wasn’t enough time for it to be heard on the Senate floor.
Public health and the environment scored a critical win when the legislature passed the Solar Tax Credit (Senate Bill 79, Stewart) for the second time in three years. It’s critical that we passed the solar tax credit this year because the Trump administration has announced a new 30% tariff on solar panels. The solar tax credit will help us protect good-paying local jobs and continue to make solar affordable for New Mexican families. With your support, we last passed the solar tax credit in 2016. At that time, Gov. Martinez chose to ignore the benefits of solar for New Mexicans and pocket vetoed the bill. We have another chance to urge her to sign the bill, and we’ll be mobilizing Conservation Voters like you to reach out to her before the signing deadline on March 7.
At the beginning of the session, PNM came to CVNM and our allied organizations about their proposal to use a financial tool called “securitization” to recoup profits they say they’ll lose when they close the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) early. The bill, the Energy Redevelopment Bond Act (Senate Bill 47, Candelaria/Neville/Montoya), focused on protecting PNM’s bottom line and missed the opportunity to transition to clean energy in our state, generating the clean energy jobs and sustainable economic growth we need. We came to the table because it’s our job to work within the legislative process to bring your conservation values into debates about critical issues just like this one. We discussed the issue with PNM because closing the coal plant will have widespread impacts on the people of San Juan County, the environment and the energy future of our entire state. We spent weeks in discussions with PNM, and real progress was made, but PNM’s proposal ultimately fell short on the concerns we raised and changes we suggested.
CVNM spearheaded an effort to bring 23 organizations together to express a unified position of opposition to the bill to the entire legislature, and outline our concerns in a detailed letter. The authors and supporters of the letter are a coalition of partners and allies in the statewide environmental community that represent cross-sector interests including public health, business, faith, sportsmen, clean energy, environmental justice and conservation interests. Nearly 300 CVNM members and supporters like you spoke up in one day, stopping Senate Bill 47 in its tracks at a special 3.5-hour Senate Conservation Committee meeting on the Senate floor. Thanks to your voices and our champions in the legislature, we move into the interim process having made significant progress on the bill. We’ll continue to work on it until the closure of the plant is a great deal for Four Corners area families, ratepayers and New Mexico’s energy future.
Further highlights:

  • No False Statements to the Environment Department (House Bill 142, Small) passed the House unanimously and with broad support in the Senate. The bill makes it a misdemeanor for operators of public water systems to make false statements or falsify testing results in reports to the Environment Department. This is a critical protection to have on the books for public health and our public water systems.
  • The legislature funded a study to identify which education and training programs are needed to build a workforce sufficient to meet the demand for uranium cleanup in New Mexico. The Environment Department’s Mining and Minerals Division has identified 259 abandoned uranium mines on state lands and more than half of these sites have no record of cleanup. On the Navajo Nation, there are more than 1,100 mines, including 523 documented abandoned uranium mines. A legacy of uranium contamination remains, directly impacting the health, air, land and water of the communities that live among these dangerous mines. Creating a uranium mine cleanup program is not only beneficial to public health but presents an opportunity for potential economic growth and job creation for New Mexico. We were proud to stand with our allies at the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment in support of this effort and will continue to push for this much needed cleanup.

A lowlight:

  • $250,000 in funding for the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) was not included in the budget. CVNM supported this appropriation because additional renewable energy transmission is still needed to fully realize New Mexico’s clean energy potential. We strongly urge state leaders to fully fund RETA in the future.

With your support, we communicated positions on 60 bills to our legislators this session and you can read the outcomes of each measure in our comprehensive Legislative Outcomes report on our website. Governor Martinez has until March 7 to sign or veto legislation. We’ll update this document as Gov. Martinez takes action and ask you to call on her to make sure she signs legislation important to our air, water and healthy communities.
Legislative sessions can be long and tiring, but knowing that folks like you are behind us ready to take action really helps us make it through.
Thank you for being a Conservation Voter,
Ben, Demis, Liliana and Joan
CVNM’s Legislative Team