Something is happening here, what it is, is getting very clear & it is something about which New Mexicans should be very excited. NM just may be about to pass legislation needed to launch a just, sustainable transition.
I can’t underscore enough how many tremendous climate, energy and environment bills are being introduced this year and in hearings I am not hearing the usual knee jerk GOP response. There is a tremendous receptivity to these bills and it is something we must take advantage of. Individually, each of these bills is impressive, but collectively they are visionary and inspiring. If we can get the bills described below passed into law, we will have achieved a substantive first step towards transformational change New Mexico.
There is nothing advancing this session that would directly address the need to keep it in the ground, but there are over a dozen bills together represent a significant investment to both protect our earth, air and water, diversify our economy and prepare New Mexico to be a major force in distributing renewable energy across the nation. And, in truth, developing that renewable infrastructure and state revenue diversification is a necessary step before keeping it in the ground is politically feasible.
But before we describe what Retake sees as a very exciting opportunity in the 2020 Legislative Session, a couple of updates.
- Next Friday, Feb 7 at 10:30, on the House Floor at the Roundhouse, Rep. Andrea Romero will recognize the late Lynne Fischer, one of the leaders and core members of Retake Our Democracy and a longtime environmental advocate. Lynne touched many of us and was a deeply committed activist. She was instrumental in setting up Retake’s entire legislative strategy including our statewide Rapid Response Network. We encourage members of the Retake community to show up and let her husband, Dan know that she was appreciated and will be remembered. A memorial is also being planned by the family in the spring.
- Today is the 11th Annual “Witness for the People” at the Roundhouse and if you have never heard Tina Cordova or Marian Narajo speak about the absolutely shameful Trinity Test and the continuing shame of the US failure to provide any compensation, health support or ANYTHING for the Downwinders, you should make a point of being at the Roundhouse today at noon. At yesterday’s House Energy Environment & Natural Resources hearing, I was sitting right next to Rep. Abbas Akhil and throughout Cordova’s testimony, his head was down, quivering and at one point muttered, “This is very hard to hear.” Indeed. See below.
- We continue to enjoy success at the Roundhouse, every one of our bills has passed committee thus far.
- HB 9 Community Solar and HB 233 Energy Grid Modernization had been scheduled for the first Saturday Roundhouse hearing of the session, House Energy Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Saturday noon, Room 317. but those bills will be heard on Tuesday while sponsors work on each bill. There will be plenty to weigh in on at the Saturday noon hearing with bills to create an Electric Vehicle Income Tax Credit (HB 217), Agriculture and Natural Resource Trust Act (HB 223), a NM Environment Department Greenhouse Gas Evaluation bill (HB 293), and the Energy Storage System Tax Credit Change. Every bill addresses our climate crisis in substantive ways and the discussion will be most informative. Retake volunteers will be outside with flyers on most of the bills.
- But this blog is not the best source for information on bills, hearings, and how to raise your voice. For that click the Get Legislative Alerts link on the right side of our home page. You will get nearly daily updates that so many New Mexicans find essential to raising their voice during each session.
Witness for the People
The 11th Annual “Witness for the People”at noon on Friday, January 31 in the Rotunda of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Trinity Test. The first atomic bomb in history. Speakers include:
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. on KSFR, 101.1 FM Retake Our Democracy with host Paul Gibson and this week’s guests are NM State House Representatives Melanie Stansbury and Abbas Akhil, two of the leaders in the NM statehouse when it comes to climate change and renewable energy. We did two separate interviews knitted together by a unifying theme: the 2020 legislative session and the opportunity to create, in effect, a state plan for a transition, sustainable transition. Do listen in. Last week I spent an hour with Speaker Egolf who laid out his priorities and also spoke a bit about the subtleties of the legislative process. Most interesting.
All of our shows are also available on podcast by clicking on the button on the right of the home page “Retake on KSFR.”
New Mexico’s 2020 Investment in a Sustainable Environment & Diversified Economy
It is time to get excited about the 2020 legislative session because a dozen new bills, taken together, represent key pieces to the puzzle of creating a just transition to a diverse economy and a sustainable energy profile.
Viewed separately there are bills that could significantly improve our capacity to protect our land, water, air and natural resources, while providing a sustainable funding source to continue that work. Another group of bills would invest in building a renewable energy infrastructure, the kind of infrastructure that could help NM become a national leader in the generation, storage and transmission of renewable energy. Another series of bills offers consumers tax incentives to make their personal transition to renewables more affordable and the bill sponsors got this right by making the incentives greater for low-income New Mexicans.
With all these disparate pieces, the state needs a unifying planning process that could knit these strategies together while focusing state funds to invest in building the renewable energy infrastructure. Fortunately, just such a bill has also been introduced and seems to be moving quickly forward.
So let’s take a look at this inventory of bills and how they might nest together into what would amount to a NM 2020 Strategic Plan for a Just, Sustainable Transition. The first group of bills focus on protecting our soil, our water and our natural resources.
- HB 223 / SB 102 AG & Natural Resources Trust Fund would create an enduring trust fund devoted to restoring our agricultural land and our natural resources;
- HB 248 Water Association Infrastructure Act would establish an oversight committee, criteria for project selection and a trust to generate $10M annually for improving our state and local water systems;
- HB 166 Healthy Soil Funding. HB 166 calls for an increase of $300,000 in the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s (NMDA) budget for the Healthy Soil Program
- SB 33 Funding of Non-Gaming Species Conservation to provide $200,000 to support a study of how NM can expand current regulations protecting endangered gaming species to protect other gaming species
Taken together, these bills not only provide policy direction but also offer a sustainable, enduring funding base that serves as the seed funding needed to protect our natural resources. The next set of bills provide direction and funding to build a NM state renewable energy infrastructure
- HB 173 Gas Taxes & New Funds Distribution. This bill would impose surtaxes on gasoline and special fuels and devote the proceeds equally to the state road fund, to a new clean infrastructure fund, and to a new gas surtax low-income rebate fund. It would thus encourage fuel efficiency, provide funding for cleaner infrastructure, and mitigate the regressive effects of fuel taxes at the same time.
- HB 233 Energy Grid Modernization Road Map. These two bills are being combined to create an extraordinarily powerful tool for expanding New Mexico’s renewable grid.
- HB 9 Community Solar would create the capacity for local communities and tribes to create their own solar arrays, localizing and democratizing local green energy capacity.
- SB 114 Community Energy Efficiency Development Grant would create a grant program to implement energy efficiency improvements in low-income households,.
The above bills make it easier for the state, local communities and tribes to develop their own renewable energy and energy efficiency capacities. The bills below do the same thing for local individuals and families, with three separate tax credit bills designed to make it easier for New Mexican individuals and businesses to buy electric vehicles, to install solar installations and to enhance those purchases with energy storage and charging capacity.
- HB 201 Energy Storage System Tax Changes. This bill would offer tax credits to New Mexicans who install home energy storage systems
- HB 217 Electric Vehicle Income Tax Credit. Provides a tax credit of $2500 when a tax payer purchases an electric vehicle. For individuals earning under $50,000 and families under $75,000 the credit is $5000.
- SB 29 Solar Market Development Tax Credit. Would provide tax credits for consumers installing solar power with low-income individuals receiving double the amount of the tax credit.
Lastly, the bills above represent a whole lot of moveable parts with long-term needs for sustainable funding. But there are also other opportunities to expand our state energy transmission grid and our renewable energy generation and storage capacity. And the state could invest its own funds in these projects as the state has billions of dollars in various retirement accounts, the Permanent Fund and other funds managed by the State Investment Council.
Santa Fe advocate, Greg Sonnenfeld saw this as an opportunity and took the initiative. Working the Representative Sanchez and the State Investment Council, he developed two bills that work in alignment: HM 9 Renewable Energy Investment and HB 99 Renewable Energy Investment Policy Funding. HM 9 asks the SIC to create a strategic plan for how the state could use its own investment resources to target investment in renewable generation, storage and transmission. HB 99 would provide $50,000 to fund the planning process. These bills together provide the opportunity for the state to knit together an investment strategy that generates an immediate return on state investment while building our capacity to generate, store and transmit renewable energy.
When you step back and examine what might be possible if NM is able to pass all or even the majority of these bills, it is staggering. No, it won’t stop the seas from rising or acidifying, but it will reduce NM’s contribution to the climate crisis and afford communities and families more opportunity to play meaningful roles in moving toward a just transition. At the same time, these bills point the state in a clear direction, the right direction and create the first step in a journey we must all take together.
These thirteen bills represent the engine for a just transition, the nuts and bolts for getting it done. Each bill plays a critical role, each provides the tools needed to achieve a vision for a sustainable future, and that is worth fighting for.
I hope that after reading this you think deeply about how much time you might be able to devote to legislative advocacy for just the next three weeks. Consider taking a day and coming to the Roundhouse; consider devoting 20 minutes a day to contacting legislators to voice your support for any or all of these bills. You could begin this Saturday at noon at Roundhouse Room 317 and Retake volunteers will be there to make it easy.
For your future engagement in the legislative process, if you haven’t already done so, go to our home page at RetakeOurDemocracy.org and sign up for our blog which is published four days a week and offers analysis of policies, programs and political news with a uniquely New Mexican focus.
Perhaps more importantly during the Roundhouse session, also click the “Get Legislative Alerts” button, also on the right side of the home page. You’ll get nearly daily action alerts that include a list of bills to be heard and voted on in the next 1-2 days, along with where hearings will be held, and contact information for the legislators who will be voting on each bill. You’ll also get bill summaries and speaking points to make your advocacy easy. And should you decide to come to the Roundhouse for a hearing or two, the alerts will tell you the date, time and hearing room location and when you get there, a Retake Volunteer will be outside with a one-page bill summary and your free Retake Our Democracy button.
Let’s do this: A Just Transition for New Mexico.
Paul & Roxanne