SANTA FE, N.M. – Today, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM), the leading environmental advocacy organization in New Mexico, is releasing the statewide Conservation Scorecard for the 2019 legislative session. In the Scorecard, CVNM analyzes and reports on the votes cast by legislators on the most critical issues affecting our air, land and water in a new, interactive website, designed to better connect New Mexicans with their legislators and their environmental records. The Scorecard includes an executive summary, Scorecard data in a collection of easy-to-read charts displaying scoring trends over the past decade, behind-the-scenes stories and an issue spotlight.
In the 2019 session, New Mexico was represented by a majority of pro-conservation legislators and a pro-environment Governor after the 2018 elections drastically shifted the political lay of the land. Governor Lujan Grisham set the tone early by signing a critical Executive Order to create a climate-conscious government, including joining the U.S. Climate Alliance and directing state agencies to tackle out-of-control methane emissions. The legislature followed her lead, passing 16 pro-conservation pieces of legislation, the majority of which the Governor signed into law.
2019 By the Numbers Highlights:
- The average conservation score earned in the Senate in the 2019 Scorecard is 72%, an increase from 71% in 2017-2018.
- The average conservation score earned in the House of Representatives in the 2019 Scorecard is 65%, a decrease from 67% in 2017-2018. The decrease in overall performance in the House is attributed to a steep drop from an average score of 37% for House Republicans in 2017-2018 to a dismal 13% in 2019.
- Female legislators outperformed male legislators by 15%. The average conservation score for a female legislator was 78% compared to 63% for male legislators.
- Find more 2019 data and trends from the past decade on the Scorecard website.
The Energy Transition Act (ETA, Senate Bill 489), by far the most important piece of energy legislation debated by the legislature this year, was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law. The bill established a 100% carbon-free energy standard, a new financing mechanism called “securitization” to enable coal plants to close earlier, funding and mechanisms to support the Four Corners region’s economic diversification. The Scorecard details how each legislator voted on the bill and analyzes the impacts of the passage of the bill.
“Pollution of our air, land and water is something that affects every New Mexican,” says Ben Shelton, CVNM Political & Legislative Director. “CVNM connects people to their political power to protect our environment and the Scorecard is a key way to directly connect them to the issues that matter and directly impacts their families and communities.”
The 2019 Scorecard highlights votes on 10 Senate and 16 House pieces of legislation on critical issues affecting New Mexico’s air, land and water. The scored legislation touched on a wide variety of important environmental and conservation topics including a nation-leading carbon-free energy standard, processes and funding to ensure the Four Corners region’s transition away from a coal-based economy is equitable, banning coyote killing contests, creating the outdoor recreation division with a first-in-the-nation outdoor equity fund.
Santa Fe area:
Home to a high concentration of progressive climate-focused voters, Santa Fe area decision-makers tend to reflect this by prioritizing clean air, clean water and a proactive approach towards dealing with the climate crisis. This was embodied in PRC Application For Vehicle Electricity (House Bill 521) and New Solar Market Development Tax Credit (Senate Bill 518). Both bills aim to make clean energy technology, such as electric vehicles and solar panels, more accessible to more New Mexicans.
Representative Matthew McQueen, who earned a 100% in the 2019 Scorecard, served as the chair of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee (HEENRC). We applaud his approach to dealing with an unruly Republican caucus that chose to engage in bad faith arguments and amendments on many bills as tactics to slow down the entire committee’s work. Rep. McQueen is committed to robust debate in HEENRC as it is a critical committee in New Mexico where energy resources, both renewable and non-renewable, are abundant. Despite the majority of New Mexicans holding strong values for protecting our air, land and water across the political spectrum, we continue to see that that is not represented in the legislature.
CVNM’s 2019 Scorecard offers insight into the voting records of each of New Mexico’s state legislators. In addition, you will find detailed descriptions of each piece of legislation CVNM scored along with the pro-conservation vote (yay or nay.) Review the detailed Scorecard for additional reporting opportunities.
Southwest New Mexico is a busy place for conservation, with the entirety of New Mexico’s copper mining industry and the last wild, free-flowing stretch of the Gila River all located in Grant County. In addition, Dona Ana County is home to a high concentration of climate-focused voters.
Mining Permit Corporate Guarantees (House Bill 255) required that financial assurance for mining operations be filed by the original applicant and could not be a guaranteed by an affiliated corporation or person. The bill would have prevented the shifting of costs to affiliated entities who may have contested requirements for reclamation. When our state decision-makers permit an environmentally impactful operation, like a mine, it is critical that we ensure remediation costs are planned for. Policies such as this ask that mining operations be good neighbors. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass as Representative Rebecca Dow led the charge in pushing back against measures that increase accountability on mining operations.
Senator Jeff Steinborn and Representative Angelica Rubio continue to be strong voices for conservation and environmental justice, reflecting their constituent’s values. Steinborn and Rubio successfully gathered a coalition of bipartisan support to Create the Outdoor Recreation Division (Senate Bill 462) Governor Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law with the included Equity Fund to get working families outdoors. Measures such as this are vital to diversifying our economy in sustainable ways that boost job creation in rural communities.
See below for all scores for the southwestern area of the state:
Northwest New Mexico is home to two of the largest coal power plants in the Southwest U.S., one of the largest natural gas patches and widespread abandoned uranium mine waste, making this an area where energy policy in particular tends to loom large. The community feels the impact of this level of industrial development in shocking hospitalization rates for asthma, a methane cloud the size of Delaware hanging over the Four Corners Region and rivers contaminated by mine waste.
Oil, Gas and Vented Gas Royalties (Senate Bill 500 and House Bill 398) would have established a threshold over which oil and gas production is taxed at one fourth percent. The bills also would have established that vented and flared gas would be subject to royalties. New Mexicans are not getting a fair return on our natural resources. Royalty rates that the oil and gas industry pay to extract publicly-owned resources from state trust lands are capped at 20%, lower than neighboring states, and are not regularly revised to ensure a fair return. This bill would have given the Commissioner of Public Lands the authority to regularly revise and update the rate based on current market conditions. Unfortunately, the bills did not pass. Once again, conservative Democratic legislators in the House Business and Industry Committee chose industry profits over the health and well-being of our state.
The Energy Transition Act will have a specific, significant impact on the northwestern area of the state. While the bill does not determine whether or not a coal plant closes, the bill’s focus on the Four Corners region’s economic diversification will determine the future of the community in vital ways. However, the areas own legislators stood in the way of the bill receiving a robust debate. For example, when Senator William Sharer’s multiple amendments were labeled unfriendly and defeated, his debate on the bill turned into a three-and-a-half-hour filibuster. While he was hoping to make a political point, he stood in the way of his colleagues asking their questions about the ETA. His filibuster hurt the Senate’s ability to be the deliberative body New Mexico needs them to be while considering one of the most impactful bills of the session.
As the largest city in the state, Albuquerque area voters expect conservation solutions that serve city dwellers, as well as visionary climate policy that can have a global impact. Senator Mimi Stewart has been a shining example of this in her time in the legislature, and once again demonstrated her commitment to leading the way on climate action this session. She co-sponsored the Energy Transition Act (ETA, Senate Bill 489), which included one of the strongest carbon-free energy standards in the country. The bill passed and was signed into law by the Governor, realizing five years of work and commitment by Sen. Stewart to bring more clean energy like wind and solar to our energy sector. Sen. Stewart is one of the most consistent voices on making clean energy more accessible for more New Mexicans.
CVNM Political & Legislative Director Ben Shelton is available to discuss the 2019 Scorecard in more depth and answer any questions you may have about legislation or the process by which the scores are calculated.
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.