After another three hour discussion and three more amendments, the Senate Judicial Committee voted 10-2 to approve HB 325 and this was a vastly improved bill, but flaws identified by other environmental allies remained in the bill and so New Energy Economy and Retake withdrew its support and the bill will die in the Senate. And then PNM’s ad…a completely bogus hit job. Details and Roundhouse Roundup.
Roundhouse Round Up. A Crazy End to Our Last Time Playing Defense at the Roundhouse
Before getting started on Tuesday and Wednesday’s events, I want you to be sure to get through to the bottom of the post, as I have provided the email address for the PNM CEO and I think it is time we tell her what we think of her company and her constant manipulation of the truth. Speaking points are also provided.
Tuesday, I reported on how a series of amendments had transformed a very bad HB 325 into a pretty good bill. One day later the House Judiciary Committee passed an even better version of the bill by a 10-2 bipartisan vote. The new bill would have provided San Juan with revenue to replace a significant portion of the anticipated property tax revenue that will be lost as San Juan closes down, while also providing protection to ratepayers and, in a last minute amendment, another amendment that ensured that impact on the environment would be a factor in identifying the kind of energy generation developed to replace San Juan.
We thought we had a huge win but only an hour before the bill went to the House floor, where it passed, we received a letter signed by five other environmental organizations that detailed a number of concerns they had with the bill. Essentially, the bill required any new energy generation facility that would replace the lost energy generated by San Juan to be located in San Juan thus ensuring that the school district in San Juan that relies heavily upon property taxes from SJ Generating Station. But since it is unlikely that all of the replacement power could come from solar this left the door open for PNM to develop a gas pipeline and gas generation to make up the difference. NEE had incorporated other protections that would incentivize renewables, but other organizations felt the protections were not enough and that this could undermine efforts to create wind generation in other parts of the state. We agreed and withdrew support for the bill.
They forwarded the letter to Senator Wirth and Senator Cervantes in whose Conservation Committee the bill might have been heard. After consulting with Mariel Nanasi, who affirmed that we had not caught every flaw in the bill and that the others were correct, I sent emails to both Senator Wirth and Sentator Cervantes iindicating my withdrawing support, as did New Energy Economy. We felt certain that the Senate would kill the bill with the input from the five environmental groups and now from NEE and Retake. I have been told from multiple sources that the bill will not get to the Senate floor and so will die. It was a real roller coaster of a ride. One moment, we thought we had pulled off an astonishing coup and then realized that in overlooking one aspect of the bill, we had facilitated passage of bill that while significantly improved remained too flawed to become law. Fortunately, it will not. But much good came from the nearly three days of non-stop hearings and negotiations as we learned much.
If you rush at the last minute, you make mistakes and bad ideas become bills. I was astonished throughout the session at how many times, during hearings, a bill could be amended 5-6 times within minutes. How anyone can track that effectively is beyond me. With changes made with 3-4 people in huddles in the hall and then cobbled together with other amendments, it is very difficult to make sure that the resulting changes will have the intended effect. During the floor vote last night, both Rep. McCamley and Rep. McQueen indicated that the rushed pace with which HB 325 was amended and approved by committee caused them to vote no. Lesson learned.
Multiple perspectives help ensure that a sound bill is passed. This is pretty much always the case in most any circumstance, but especially so in high stakes legislative advocacy. Getting multiple views on a bill and/or proposed amendments lessens the likelihood of missing something or proposing something with unintended consequences. What’s more, if multiple organizations review a bill or amendment, it is likely they will be willing to add their names to the work of getting a committee to incorporate the change or to support a bill. This is especially important for an organization like Retake. We are not experts in any one area; we derive our positions from listening to those who have worked that issue area for a decade or more. And since we often have multiple allies in each issue area, getting input from multiple allies makes sense.
Relationships matter. This year, far more than last, I and others got to know secretaries, aides, legislators and other progressive lobbyists. I feel as if I know over two dozen legislators reasonably well and a score more where there is more recognition than relationship. But that is a start. For example, working closely with House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R, Farmington will be critical as we try to identify the best legislative solution to facilitating a just economic transition for San Juan and Four Corners. I spent a good deal of time going door to door in the Roundhouse talking with legislative staff and legislators. Next year, I can envision our appearing the first day with a short booklet of our priorities with information on each bill and why we support it. I could see us going to every office in the Roundhouse and talk with staff and leave a copy of the booklet. But even before that I can envision Roundhouse Rapid Response Team members reaching out to their legislators in May-December, cultivating relationships that will be important in 2019. Those relationships matter so much.
Tracking bills takes lots of time as hearing times change and your bill may come toward the end of a long session, but…. Last year when I attended a hearing and my item was low on the agenda, I’d leave and maybe get something to eat or listen in to another hearing. This year I stayed, watched and listened and in so doing I got to know the thinking of each member and how the committee function. Who did other members look to for input, who was largely ignored? This knowledge is critical to focus lobbying efforts.
A shift in the relationship between environmentalists and residents and representatives of impacted communities is occurring. Rep. Montoya has the second lowest lifetime rating (16%) in the House on Conservation Voters of NM’s Report Card. So when I saw that Rep. Montoya had introduced HB 325, I felt I was on pretty solid ground in being concerned. But, Montoya appreciated New Energy Economy and Retake’s efforts to first amend the bill, improving it vastly and the to get HB 325 passed. As he worked with New Energy Economy the dynamic shifted. While there was a battle about closing plants or keeping them running many people in Four Corners and San Juan whose livelihood and community depend upon the mines and generating stations felt justifiably mistrustful of environmentalists, especially those based in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. From their perspective, we were threatening their lives, not saving them. But now that the plant closings are inevitable, that dynamic can shift, as the focus of environmentalist activists starts to shift from pushing to close the plants to ensuring that the impacted communities are not sacrificed. We will be allies in ensuring that the remediation of the plants and surrounding environment are restored..
PNM simply can’t be trusted. I wasn’t going to comment on their full-page ad in the New Mexican which claimed that New Energy Economy was responsible for killing SB 47. But the message in that ad was also their testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and it rankles me how dishonest they can be. PNM claimed that NEE had defeated SB 47 when it was a coalition of dozens of faith, health, environmental and other organizations who joined in opposition. PNM claims a “coalition of environmental organizations worked for months on the bill,” suggesting that they supported the product of that work. PNM omitted from the ad that NONE of those organizations supported the bill that emerged from those negotiations. PNM goes on to chastise NEE because “PNM wants to lead the country in showing other energy companies that this transition can be profitable.” Well, at least this is honest. It is all about their profit. But seriously, the arch enemy of renewables for the past decade suddenly wants to lead our transition to renewables. Who really buys this? The ad goes on to say that for them to be able to show they can profit from the transition, they need the support of environmental organizations.
The sad truth is that PNM has lied, dissembled, misrepresented facts, failed to do proper due diligence in making energy and rate decisions and manipulated the truth so often that finally others are beginning to see them as unworthy partners in negotiation. It was revealing that at one point during the hearing when one Committee member was expressing preposterous concerns that if the legislature pushes too hard on PNM they will just walk away from the plant, Rep. Montoya turned to me and said: “PNM got to him. They can’t do that.” Times are changing, indeed. Hopefully, with a change in one or two commissioners at the PRC we will have a regulatory body that will no longer take PNM’s word. Hopefully with a Democratic Governor, we will have a legislative body ready to create substantive plans for transition planning statewide.
Since PNM published the email address for New Energy Economy, I thought it would only be fair to publish the CEO of PNM, Pat Collawn’s email address and encourage all of you to let her know what you think of her hit ad on New Energy Economy and her corporate practices. Tell her that you were not amused by the lies in the ad and that PNM knows very well that there were no environmental organizations in favor of SB 47 precisely because it was a PNM bailout at the expense of ratepayers. Also tell her that her ad made you even more likely to advocate at the PRC and the Roundhouse against PNM. Pat.Collawn@pnmresources.com.
This weekend, I’ll provide a recap of the entire Roundhouse Session. We had some important wins with the defeat of SB 47 being at the top of the list. Look for more on Saturday or Sunday. And starting next week, I will lesson the pace in publishing blog posts so I can focus on launching our 2018-19 Election and Legislative strategy. If you want to be part of the team that will prepare implement both our 2018 election strategy and our 2019 Roundhouse strategy, we can certainly use you. We meet on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month from 4:30-6:30 and there are ways you can help without attending meetings. Just let me know by emailing me at paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. Much learned this year; much more to do now to put that knowledge to work.
Paul & Roxanne