FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Santa Fe, N.M. – Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM), a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to connect New Mexicans to their political power for a healthy Land of Enchantment, advocated for or against 60 pieces of legislation at the State Capitol during NM’s 2018 Legislative Session.
“The 2018 legislative session presented multiple opportunities for the community of environmental advocates that work full time in the legislature to come together. We presented a unified voice to the legislature about how we need to make progress on issues that support our air, land, water and healthy communities,” says Ben Shelton, CVNM Political & Legislative Director. “We are encouraged to see broad bipartisan support for the solar tax credit, which is headed to the governor’s desk for the second time in three years.”
Here are some highlights on environmental policy from the session:
- Solar Tax Credit (Senate Bill 79, Stewart) – Public health and the environment scored a critical win when the legislature passed the Solar Tax Credit for the second time in three years. Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart was key to securing bipartisan support for the measure in the Senate. The solar tax credit was a priority to pass this session because the Trump administration has announced a new 30% tariff on solar panels. Leaders in New Mexico’s solar industry have said this will slow installations and kill good-paying jobs in our state. The solar tax credit will protect these jobs and continue to make solar affordable for New Mexican families. The legislature passed the solar tax credit in 2016. At that time, Gov. Martinez pocket vetoed the bill. The Senate passed the bill on a 35-6 vote and the House on a 40-26 vote.
- Energy Redevelopment Bond Act (Senate Bill 47, Candelaria/Neville/Montoya) – At the beginning of the session, PNM came to CVNM and our ally 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 early. The original version of the bill 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 the conservation values of New Mexicans 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, and the environment and energy future of our entire state. Significant progress was made in the negotiations, but ultimately the 30-day session didn’t offer enough time to get all of the necessary stakeholders in the room and issues resolved, and PNM’s proposal fell short. When faced with unified environmental opposition to the bill, PNM made major concessions, including a commitment to 50% renewable energy by 2030.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 detail in a 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. Senate Bill 47 was tabled on a 5-4 vote in a special 3.5-hour Senate Conservation Committee meeting on the Senate floor. Thanks to our members who spoke up and our conservation champions in the legislature, we move into the interim process having made significant progress on the bill. We’ll be working on it until it is a great deal for all New Mexicans.
- No False Statements to the Environment Department (House Bill 142, Small) passed the House unanimously (65-0) and with broad support in the Senate (35-1). The bill makes it a misdemeanor for operators of public water systems to make false statement 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 clean up in New Mexico. The NM 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.
- $220,000 in funding for the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA) was reduced to only $100,000. CVNM supported this appropriation because additional renewable energy transmission is still needed to fully realize New Mexico’s clean energy potential. We ask the Governor to uphold this appropriation and strongly urge state leaders to fully fund RETA in the future.
CVNM’s legislative priorities include issues such as air quality, water, energy and climate change, effective government, environmental justice, wildlife and habitat conservation. CVNM’s legislative priorities form the basis of our Conservation Scorecard, published after each legislative session. The Scorecard provides objective, nonpartisan information about the conservation voting records of all members of the legislature.
CVNM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is connecting the people of New Mexico to their political power to protect our air, land and water for a healthy Land of Enchantment. We do this by mobilizing voters, winning elections, holding elected officials accountable and advancing responsible public policies.
Media Contact: Liliana Castillo at 505-992-8683 or liliana@CVNM.org