3 Critical Energy Bills in Sen. Conservation TODAY at 9, plus a Guest Post on Gas & Oil

Today is a crossroad — hugely important energy bills must pass their first hurdle. Expect to hear much testimony from Gas & Oil lobbyists spewing misinformation. Today’s guest post skewers their misinformation with something they don’t like: facts.

Be sure to work your way to the end of this post, as the guest post from Diane Albert on the disingenuous cries from gas and oil that the sky is falling is worth your time. Today is a huge day. Let’s Do It!

Legislative Update

It’s The Super Bowl of Energy Bills
as 3 Transformational Bills Hit Committee
at 9am TODAY

Today is why Retake was formed in the first place: to help get good bills made into law. It is what our election strategy is about; it is what our ongoing education efforts are about; and it is what our legislative strategy is about. It is Super Bowl time, so brew up some coffee and plan to watch Senate Conservation Committee hear three of the most important bills we are supporting.

But before you do, use today’s Legislative Action Alert to send some emails and make some calls. It would be very good for the Conservation Committee members to know you are paying attention, and the alert has all the info you need to make those calls and send those emails.

First up will be SB 83, Local Choice Energy, then SB 112 Sustainable Economy Task Force, and last, but certainly not least, SB 86 Use of Water for Gas & Oil Operations (AKA Produced Water Act Amendments). We’ve been tracking Senate Conservation for some time as these three Transformational energy bills have been queued up for hearing, but a bit down the list. Yesterday, news broke that all three will be heard this morning at 9 and Senator Stefanics is lengthening the hearing until 1pm in hopes to hear all three. For information on how you can make calls and send emails in support of these bills….and PLEASE DO THIS, click here to get the alert we sent out this morning. As a harbinger of what is to come, last night President Biden indicated he planned to eliminate the $40 billion in subsides that the gas and oil industry enjoys currently — that, on the heals of his implementing a 90-day moratorium on fracking operations.

And there are three more Transformational bills being heard today in other committees, including a Senate Bill to limit predatory lending rates to 36%, a tax bill that would make the Personal Income Tax more progressive, and paid sick leave. And if that isn’t enough for you, HB 7 is in the queue to be voted on in the House Chamber floor. Quite a day.

If you have not been getting our alert, today is a perfect example of why you should. You would have known about the three energy bills being in Senate Conservation days ago. You would have sent materials to the committee long ago and would have signed up to make public comment. But you can still send emails and make calls, and today’s alert has contact info and links to bill summaries for all the bills being heard today. Click here. That is three times, we’ve offered you the link to make it easier to make calls and send emails. It’s important!

We have fielded dozens of calls from individuals confused by process for offering public comment or even to submit written materials to support or oppose bills. As a result, we provide the following summary of the process and the importance of your advocacy. We will create a webpage that lays out this process clearly.

If you are making calls or sending emails.

The process is no different than in past years, but we recommend that you approach it in a somewhat different way. First, in almost all cases, your time is best spent advocating with Democrats. Republicans are rarely even remotely amenable to progressive legislation. Second, if we can retain Democratic votes we will win every time, even without GOP support. This will pare your work by 1/3.

Next, try to be proactive, and for the bills you care most about, write to your legislator on the weekend, when with hearings not in session, they may be receiving fewer emails and may actually read them.

When writing to a legislator, make sure to use the subject line to indicate the bill number, name and your position, perhaps with something like this: “I am your constituent and I strongly support SB 83.” And then in the body of the email, briefly express why you support the bill. It is certainly the case that some legislators only count pro and con on each bill, not having the time to read the many emails they receive, so by putting your position in the subject line you ensure that your position will be noted.

Unless you have the cell phone number of your legislator, you will be calling his/her Roundhouse office. We have found that the phone often rings and rings. Persist. It may not get answered until the 10th ring. Call between 9am-5pm on M-F — some offices do not have voicemail. Be brief. You don’t need to give all the reasons you support a bill, simply tell the secretary that you support the bill, give the bill # and title and, if you are a constituent or have worked on the legislator’s campaign, note that.

If you want to register your support, offer comment and/or submit a written summary of your position.

There are different rules guiding the processes in the Senate and in the House. We report on each separately. In either chamber, there is merit to joining the hearing via their Zoom link, even if you do not intend to offer comment. In most all instances, the chair asks first for those opposed to raise their hand. Then the chair asks those who oppose the bill but do not want to speak, to lower their hands. If you are watching the Webcast on nmlegis.gov, they do not know how many are watching or how many are in favor or opposed. So if you can, join hearings in both chambers by Zoom.

For the House: To join by Zoom, you can access the Zoom link in our Alerts or you can get them by opening “What’s Happening” at nmlegis.gov and clicking on the committee hearing where your bill is being heard. If you don’t know where your bill is being heard, go to nmlegis.gov and go to “Legislation” in the menu. Click on “find bill by number,” plug in the number, and when the bill comes up it will identify its next committee assignment. Click on that and it will take you to the agenda for the next hearing. If your bill is being heard, you can now locate the Zoom info by going back to “What’s Happening,” clicking on the agenda and you will find language that looks like this.

“You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: Feb 4, 2021 08:30 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)
Topic: House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee 2021
Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Use that link to join the meeting. (Or, you can get the links from our email Alerts.)

When a bill is called, you will be prompted by the Chair: “All those in favor use the ‘raise hand’ function and raise your hand.” This way the committee sees how many people are on the Zoom who favor or oppose the bill. You will then be asked to keep your hand up if you want to offer public comment. Every committee chair handles it differently, but in some cases they limit the number of comments and you may not be called. You will want to be very prepared — in some committees, the time limit is one minute, and in one hearing yesterday the timer was connected to the mute button and people were cut off at exactly one minute. I’ve never seen that. Also, be mindful of what has been offered in comment before you and try not to repeat. It is perfectly acceptable to say. “Madame Chair, committee members and bill sponsor. My name is Mary Smith, a member of Retake Our Democracy. For all the reasons stated before me, I want to voice my strong support for HB 83.” The chair will respect your brevity. If you want to be more expansive, the most effective public comment is if you have or you know individuals who have been impacted by the bill not being law, a human story that brings home the human impact of the bill.

To submit a document to be included in committee members’ e-file for the hearing, you must send that document by attachment to the Committee Secretary 24 hours prior to the hearing. Indicate clearly the bill number. You can locate the committee secretary’s email address on the agenda below the Zoom invite. It will look like this:

“Please submit any amendments or supplemental materials to
taylor.moya@nmlegis.gov at least 24 hours before the hearing.”

For the Senate: There is a different process to offer comment in Senate committees. You must email the address given on the committee page the day before the hearing. Your email should include your name, organizational affiliation, the bill number, and whether you’re for or against. Then they will send you a Zoom link. You should receive the Zoom link prior to the hearing, sometimes immediately prior. The Senate employs the same rules for submitting documents. Here is a link to a page with contact info for all committee secretaries.

Watching Hearings. If you are not giving public comment, you can watch the webcast of the committee hearing. All the committee hearings are offered live and recorded. You can view a list of hearings that are in session at this link and on the left of the page you can access recordings of all hearings. I have even had two hearings going at once.

We will post this information about how the process works as a webpage under the NM Legislation menu at retakeourdemocracy.org to make it easier to retrieve when you need it.

Don’t Be Fooled, Companies Have Plenty of Leases and
Land in Their Back Pockets

BY DIANE ALBERT,  LOS RANCHOS RESIDENT, Feb. 1, 2021. The author provided consent to reproduce her Op-Ed from the ABQ Journal.

Last week, President Biden delivered on his promises to put a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on public lands. This is a common-sense move after the previous four years of giveaways to the oil and gas industry, a spree which included almost 300,000 acres of publicly owned land in New Mexico. This move will give communities and parks breathing room to work together to figure out the best way forward.

Predictably, however, this move has caused no shortage of false outrage from the oil and gas industry.

Fresh from an election campaign in which New Mexicans were warned of a mythical “ban on fracking,” oil and gas executives now have the job of trying to make President Biden’s decision to merely pause the four-year cut-price fire sale of public land to polluters sound like the doomsday scenario they have cried wolf about.

Clearly this is not a fracking ban. The moratorium merely prevents any more federal land being used for oil and gas extraction, so any existing oil and gas refineries and power plants on federal and private land – and the jobs within them – are not affected. In fact, the oil and gas moratorium can be excellent news for New Mexico.

To understand the impacts of the moratorium, you have to first look into the absurd system in which public land ends up in the hands of private oil companies.

Oil and gas companies have spent the past four years snapping up more than a quarter of a million acres of New Mexico’s public lands. By the time President Trump left office, the oil industry had pocketed enough public land in New Mexico that if you combined it all you could squeeze in Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, more than two times over. Only five other states in the nation lost more land to polluters than New Mexico.

These companies have no shortage of land now. The real problem is what to do with it.

Nationally, more than three-quarters of the public land made available for oil and gas leasing had little or no potential for oil and gas drilling at all. This goes some way to explain why 63% of acres leased since 2009 have sat idle. If these lands aren’t developed, then there are no new jobs and no new state revenues. Millions of acres of public land across the United States have been lost for nothing.

For the small minority of public lands that are handed to oil and gas corporations and become oil and gas sites, we have a different set of problems to show for it. Nearby communities in places such as Carlsbad regularly deal with dangerous levels of air pollution. And even some of our state’s most famous, popular and sacred sites such as Chaco Canyon National Historical Park aren’t exempt from the damage it causes to our air, water and landscapes.

At best, New Mexicans have lost their public land for no reason – and at worst, they end up paying with their health. This is a system that needs to change, and this is the opportunity that the moratorium offers New Mexico.

Pausing this fire sale of public land to polluters will allow us time to think about better ways we can protect our public land, create new longterm jobs, and do all this without polluting New Mexico’s air and water.

Our national parks are a prime example of how public land can contribute to economic success. Carlsbad Caverns National Park sustains more than 400 long-term jobs, attracts more than 400,000 visitors each year, and contributes more than $30 million to the local economy each year. It does all this without polluting the water or the air.

That is one example, but there are many ways to use public land that can benefit New Mexico without trading off people’s health or access to the outdoors. The time has come to transition away from our state’s dependence on a boomand- bust industry, toward a more secure revenue base and an economy grounded in clean energy, clean air and water, and hard-working New Mexican families. A moratorium will help prevent industry speculation that gives them development rights on lands that we should be prioritizing for clean air and water, our farmers and ranchers, recreation, habitat for wildlife, and land to hunt and fish. The moratorium gives us time to plan to use our land in way that is better for New Mexico’s people and its economy.

Diane Albert’s Op-Ed is copyright protected. She provided consent to repost it here. Thank you Diane.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation

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