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Wide Gulf Among Area Legislators on Conservation

By Benjamin Fisher | Silver City Daily Press

Conservation Voters New Mexico have released their annual scorecard for state legislators, which this year awarded scores about as different as can be for those elected in part by the voters of Grant County.
The organization’s website claims to provide “objective, nonpartisan information about the conservation voting records of all members during both sessions of the 52nd Legislature.” It claims each vote is based solely on the conservation values, or lack thereof, found in the legislation.
Democratic District 28 state Sen. Howie Morales received a perfect 100 percent score from the organization, based on his votes in their preferred direction on three bills.
In the 2016 session, Morales sponsored SB 248, his attempt to fund the Grant County Regional Water Supply Project from the New Mexico Unit Fund, which is set aside to fund the proposed and controversial diversion of the Gila River and tributaries through the federal Arizona Water Settlements Act. The Grant County Regional Water Supply Project would transport water from wells near the Grant County Airport to water-strapped Hurley, and then on to other small communities in the Mining District. The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission funded a fraction of the project, $2.1 million, with AWSA funds.
Morales’ bill was revenue neutral, according to the organization’s website, and met the long-term water supply needs of 90 percent of Grant County’s population at a fraction of the cost of the Gila River diversion project.
“That’s going to continue to be a priority for me, because it’s important to the people I represent,” Morales said. “Having a regionalized water system is absolutely vital to the quality of life in Grant County. I will push forward, and I trust we’ll find the funding we need for this project.”
He also voted in support of SB 76, which was intended to add lead and lead-based products such as lead-acid batteries to products regulated by the Recycled Metals Act. According to the organization’s website, the bill ensured that lead is disposed of in a way that minimizes its environmental impact.
Conservation Voters also approved of Morales’ opposition to the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance Storage Facility. This bill allowed the Eddy-Lea Alliance to construct a nuclear waste storage facility.
“I know when you look at these issues, they seem to be focused on air, land and water,” Morales said. “But in all honesty, I look at these as being focused on human beings — their well-being now and in the future.”
This year’s 100 percent follows another perfect score in 2015, raising Morales’ lifetime score to 77 percent.
“I know this can be seen as a political agenda being pushed by this scorecard,” Morales said. “But because this is focused on people, these should be bipartisan.”
Longtime Republican District 38 state Rep. Dianne Hamilton received her second N/A in a row, due to not voting on the five House bills the organization kept their eye on. Hamilton, before announcing her intention to not run for re-election, was excused from many votes due to health issues.
First-term Republican District 39 state Rep. John Zimmerman received an 11 percent score in 2016, which was actually up from his 2015 score of 8 percent. This stems from his vote in support of four bills the organization opposes. Of those, HJR 9 sought to amend the Constitution of the United States to impose certain restraints on the federal government. By limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, one possibility was that the state may have revoked federal jurisdiction over public lands, and thus gained control to manage, develop or sell public lands, according to the organization’s website. HB 111 would have exempted above-ground tanks used to store airplane fuel from environmental protection laws if each tank was less than 10,000 gallons, according to the website. HB 285 would have extended a reduction in the severance tax to oil and other liquid hydrocarbons removed from natural gas produced from a recovery project that involved the application of human-produced carbon dioxide. Zimmerman also voted in support of the Eddy-Lea storage bill.
As to his score, Zimmerman said he was comfortable with his voting record, and the scorecard is just the opinions of these individuals.
“They have their own agenda,” he said on Sunday. “I represent the people of my district. I try to vote accordingly. They may not agree with me all the time, they may agree with me some of the time.”
The organization did approve of Zimmerman’s vote in support of the Lead in Sales of Recycled Metal Act.
Benjamin Fisher may be reached at