Today we offer an update on the dramatic progress being made in our collaborative effort to advance Public Power in New Mexico, and a few announcements about coming actions and events, including an important webinar on Hydrogen TONIGHT! Plus NM Dems hold Sunday session to discuss platform.
Dem Party Platform Committee, Public Zoom on Health, Education, Labor, and Business Economy & Revenue
NM Dem Party has one of the most progressive platforms in the country, in part, due to the hard work of a few progressives who comprise the majority of the SPARC committee responsible for crafting the platform and who conduct these monthly meetings at venues throughout the state, to engage Democrats in the process. Great work! .
The Sunday, January 9th meeting will focus on four areas: Business, Economy and Revenue Sources, Labor, Healthcare, and Education.
There will be a range of speakers on these topics, please see the agenda for the full list. In the afternoon, after you hear from all the speakers you will have breakout sessions to discuss the 4 platform sections, you will be able to attend breakouts on 3 of the 4 platform sections.
The meeting is from 9 am to 4 pm and all New Mexico Democrats are invited to attend and help SPARC shape the 2022 platform. Please join us Sunday on Zoom.
SPARC website, meeting schedule:https://www.dpnm-sparc.org/meeting-schedule.html
MY QUESTIONS FOR THE DAY: Is there any state in the nation with a more noxious combination of major industries than NM? How did the Land of Enchantment get hijacked, not just by the DDemilitary industrial complex and the gas and oil industry, but becoming the nation’s toxic waste dump as well? And each opportunity to expand these death industries has been met with bipartisan, uncritical, open arms.
How can we re-enchant our state? Imagine if instead of hydrogen being the centerpiece of MLG’s legislative agenda, Public Power was the centerpiece. Public Power would produce state revenue and jobs, and there are hundreds of millions in federal dollars in the pipeline to build out that infrastructure. Since that ain’t gonna happen, we have to prep for a battle on hydrogen and get educated on Public Power.
Let’s start by getting up to speed on hydrogen and then push for Public Power, an industry we could embrace as life affirming. First, hydrogen.
Fracked Hydrogen webinar tonight, Jan. 6, 6pm
Apparently the Governor has gotten the message: her Hydrogen Hub bill was dead on arrival and so it is being completely reworked and a thoroughly green-washed version will be introduced by Rep. Nathan Small. In anticipation, we need to be fully educated. This webinar is very promising, with regional and national leaders offering precisely the kind of info we need to prepare for what is coming. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money at stake and a fossil-fuel industry needing the Governor to prop it up.
It’s the most abundant element in the universe and, some say, the energy source of the future. It can be produced sustainably as “green” hydrogen, but most manufactured hydrogen today is “grey,” produced from fracked gas. The oil and gas industry has tweaked that process and now calls the resultant hydrogen “blue”. But is it worthy of the cleaner, more wholesome label? And how is the industry moving quickly to normalize “blue” hydrogen in law, policy, and the public’s mind?
Register for a first-of-its-kind informational webinar tonight, during which Harv Teitelbaum (PSR / Colorado Rising for Communities / Environmental Health Project) and Brian DeBruine (Colorado Hydrogen Network) will discuss the different colors of hydrogen and how they impact funding for research, the emerging regulatory environment, and the plans of the oil and gas industry.
Save the date: Jan. 6, 2022, 6pm Mountain Time. Register Here
Our legislators need to know that we are getting educated and that they should do so, also. The Governor will be sharing a bunch of rationalizations for her love affair with Hydrogen. If we don’t educate ourselves and then help our legislators get educated, the train that is coming will squash us like a bug. So please share this post with your legislators or copy and paste the webinar description and link and email it to your legislators. Tell them you plan to participate in this webinar and that you hope they will join you. To identify your legislators (House and Senate), click here and use your address to identify your legislator and find contact info.
PBS Special Worth Your Time
After the webinar, catch the premiere of “Preserving Democracy: Pursuing a More Perfect Union” on PBS on January 6 at 9:00 p.m. ET (check local listings)! This new documentary addresses political divisiveness and threats to democracy in the United States, culminating in the insurrection at our Capitol. Based on the promotions I’ve seen on PBS, this should be a powerful film that you won’t want to miss.
Petition for A Public Power Study
Last week, Senator Liz Stefanics and Representative Andrea Romero, with their colleagues Senators Jeff Steinborn, Carrie Hamblen, Leo Jaramillo, Linda M. Lopez, Harold Pope, Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, William Tallman, and Representatives Brittney Barreras, Joanne Ferrary, Derrick Lente, Roger E. Montoya, Kristina Ortez, Angelica Rubio, and Debra Sariñana, petitioned the Public Regulation Commission to initiate a formal study of the benefits and feasibility of a public power path in New Mexico. The study would:
- Determine the costs, benefits, and pathways to public power; and
- Evaluate whether implementation of public power will protect the public interest, reduce and stabilize electricity rates, create revenue generation for the state, and result in the deployment of 100% renewables plus storage and enhance local economic benefits.
The PRC almost instantly scheduled a hearing to discuss if they should invite Sen Stefanics to present the petition and discuss how the study might move forward. We are told that there at least the 3 votes needed to move this forward and that a request to present has been approved and will occur next week. A coalition of folks from Renewable Taos, Retake our Democracy, the Land Office, and New Energy Economy (NEE) has been meeting weekly to advance planning, and NEE funded a preliminary study that will be complete next week. That study will provide information about what public power is, how it can be organized, projections of the potential benefits to the state, and will identify what more needs to be known for policymakers and legislators to be comfortable implementing public power in NM. While the PRC can do the study, it will be the legislature that will need to pass legislation to create Public Power. So, there is much to do, starting with getting educated and educating our legislators.
From New Energy Economy:
Within the next decade, trillions of dollars will be invested in energy infrastructure across the United States. From federal policies to market forces to the inevitable replacement of retiring fossil fuel plants, the transition to renewable energy sources will necessitate a massive restructuring of not only the power grid and generation sources, but energy markets, ownership, and control. With some of the highest solar and wind capacity of any state in the nation, New Mexico will be presented with numerous opportunities and important decisions as this transition unfolds. Merging with large multinational energy companies is one possible path forward but we must explore alternatives.
In order to discern the best path forward for New Mexico to take advantage of the significant potential benefits inherent at this critical juncture, New Mexico state leadership, regulators, and legislators will need both the advice of unbiased technical experts and the capacity to envision alternatives to the current monopoly structure. Public Power ownership represents one such vision with tremendous potential: a publicly owned utility provides long-term value, with benefits including rate stability, local jobs, policies aligned with community values, and significant opportunities for revenue from both local energy consumption and energy exports that would otherwise flow to private corporations and shareholders.
The APPA, American Public Power Association (publicpower.org), reports that there are more than 2,000 public power utilities throughout the U.S. – in every state but Hawaii, and in five territories. These take a variety of forms, but the difference between public power and Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) — the three in New Mexico are PNM, El Paso Electric (EPE), and Southwestern Public Service (SPS) — boils down to essentially one thing: they are motivated by values rather than shareholder profit. Public power customers (1 in 7 US residents) pay on average 11% less than IOU customers, receive more reliable service, and are more likely to benefit from renewable power sources. In 2019, more than 40% of public power was from renewable energy.
Importantly for New Mexico, it also keeps our money in our communities. Publicly owned utilities can re-invest profits from energy sales in local jobs, lower energy costs for low-income customers, and investment in local community projects and causes. IOUs’ primary responsibility is to benefit shareholders. Public power exists to benefit the community. And these benefits include public ownership of the vast opportunities that exist now to build energy infrastructure and export it to load centers in California, Arizona, and elsewhere. The economic opportunity for New Mexico is significant. If Los Angeles, with 1.4 million customers, can be served by a publicly owned utility, there is no reason that New Mexico’s 750,000 IOU customers cannot be served by a publicly owned utility as well.
But while there is clearly much to be gained by developing Public Power in NM, there is also much to be learned. And so the proposed study will answer at least the following questions:
- What would the quantifiable benefits be if New Mexico pursued a public power structure for its electric system?
- What are the high-level cost reductions of replacing private investor-owned utilities with public power?
- What is the revenue potential of exporting excess renewable energy and job creation opportunities?
- How might public power accelerate the transition to renewables?
If the Commission pursues the study, the result will be an unbiased comprehensive study of public power ownership in New Mexico, which will help the Legislature make a well-informed decision at a critical juncture in the transition to renewable energy: whether allowing public ownership of retail electric service at just and reasonable rates is feasible, and whether it will provide economic benefits to the people of New Mexico, help to diversify the state’s revenue base, and accelerate the transition to clean energy.
Great work, NEE. Retake will continue to educate our folks about progress on this project and what people can do.
As the opening to this piece suggests, our coalition has already secured significant legislative support for studying public power, with 16 legislators signing the petition to seek the PRC study. Here are quotes from a few them, taken from a recent NEE press release:
“We no longer need to trade off the environment and the economy against each other as we have abundant natural resources in New Mexico. We must look at alternative ways to structure the provision of energy so that we can meet our goals as quickly and equitably as possible,” said Senator Liz Stefanics.
“Technology disruptions are already underway in the energy and transportation sectors and these have extraordinary implications for addressing climate change. This Petition is about exploring our alternatives. The monopoly electric systems of the past which has served us well may not be the best fit to serve a competitive renewable energy market going forward. The exploration of choices is being considered all over the U.S. from Hawaii to New Hampshire and everywhere in between, including our neighbors in Colorado. We must be well informed,” said Representative Andrea Romero.
“Solar, wind and batteries are disrupting coal, nuclear, oil, and gas. Will we be able to deploy these technologies rapidly enough to avoid dangerous climate change? Will we be able to decentralize both the technologies and the control over and ownership of these technologies so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past and concentrate wealth and disenfranchise whole segments of our populations. What if we could scale what Picuris Pueblo has done for all Pueblos? This study will evaluate the central role energy has on natural systems and human systems and our economy, that’s why I support this analysis,” said Representative Derrick Lente.
“As a former city manager of two cities who owned and operated electric and gas utilities I am a strong supporter of public utilities. The citizens of both communities took great pride in the fact that they had local public control over their electric and gas utilities – our rates were significantly less than the rates of the surrounding investor-owned-utilities and we contributed 10% to the cities’ general fund,” said Senator William Tallman.
That is a very good start, but there is more work to be done. NEE is developing a website dedicated to Public Power and it will launch soon. Stay tuned.
If you want to learn more about Public Power, the APPA website presents a dizzying array of information.(APPA Home page).
While you can go to the APPA to dive deeply, Retake published this post in June that was based on APPA info and presents what Public Power is, how it can be organized, and how it would benefit NM. Let’s do this!
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne