Jammed Roundhouse Morning; Proposed Amendments to Badly Flawed HB6 Clean Future Act

So far we are batting 100%, but the waters start to get choppy today with the Green Amendment & Clean Future Act at 9 am, and predatory lending bill at 10 am (3rd on agenda). Competing Zooms on critical issues. We have stalled the Hydrogen Hub, an important but temporary win, with more to do. All other energy-related tax credits have sailed forward, as did Second Chance legislation banning life without possibility of parole for children. No bill we support has been killed and most all seem to be receiving early hearings and warm receptions. But this morning’s hearings could be challenging. No rest for the weary.

Legislative Update

It’s important to celebrate our successes while keeping our eyes on what lies ahead. We will have time for champagne on Feb. 18. But we have a huge day ahead. HJR Environmental Rights (Green Amendment), which we support, and HB6 Clean Future Act, which we oppose without significant amendments added, will both be heard in House Energy Environment and Natural Resources Committee at 9am. And we have a few days to strategize for the inevitable “untabling” of HB4 Hydrogen Hub Development Act, which we also oppose.

After this morning’s hearings, the highest priority is to reach out to House Energy Environment and Natural Resources Committee (HEENRC) members to educate them about all that is wrong with blue hydrogen as a principle, what is wrong with the bill itself, and the degree to which it feeds the gas an oil trough. HEENRC’s job just got tougher with the sudden resignation of Rep. Brittney Barreras (D), and the margin for error just narrowed. Some of the same GOP members who voted to table will almost certainly vote to support this bill. After all, Rep. Montoya introduced the “do pass” motion in the first place, so it is odd he then supported the tabling. He did “explain” his vote by saying he’d be willing to work with the sponsors to amend the bill. I think it would be worth thanking Rep. Larry Scott (R) and reaching out to all GOP Reps. to reinforce Scott’s skepticism that this is a huge tax giveaway with no certainty at all of a return. Among the Dems., Rep. Dixon appears unmovable, but if you are in her district or if you know her, please contact her. In her comments, Dem. Rep. Sariñana made it clear that her constituents were hugely opposed and she was paying attention. She is also most concerned about whether carbon sequestration was possible and/or had proven effective anywhere else.

To refresh your minds as to what transpired on Thursday’s HEENRC hearing, you can read a blow-by-blow in Friday’s post here. There is much to write about the last two days, but we want our critique of HB6 in your hands and the hands of HEENRC members ASAP, so more another day.

HB 6 Clean Future Act is essentially the roundly criticized zero emissions economy act that circulated in draft two weeks ago, receiving near unanimous thumbs down from environmental groups. Sierra Club supports HB 6 and its setting clear and ambitious emissions goals, but they also recognize the need for substantive amendments. We agree with most all Sierra Club amendments, although our amendments and those published by YUCCA go a good deal further. We will continue to oppose this bill until all or most of the amendments outlined below are added.

Please use the amendments below to offer public comment in today’s hearing. Sorry for the late notice, but things are moving faster than I recall them ever moving, as the legislature wrestles with what is supposed to be a budget session but has some weighty, seriously flawed climate bills to discuss, the Governor demanding attention, and a raft of crime bills also demanding attention. What budget?

Join the Zoom webinar for today’s HEENRC hearing starting NOW (join even if it’s late — they may not start on time.) at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83031344397. Or dial +12532158782, 83031344397# or +13462487799,,83031344397#. Or for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 9128 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656. Webinar ID: 830 3134 4397.

HB 6 Clean Future Act: Amendments Needed

Summary: The Clean Future Act sets ambitious requirements of a 50% reduction of climate pollution in New Mexico by 2030 and at least 90% by 2050 and includes an array of terminology to define what emissions are being tracked and who and when reports must be submitted to document progress. Given that New Mexico’s carbon emissions have increased since the 2005 baseline, this would represent a 64% reduction from current levels by 2030.

Why This Bill Is Important and Why It Badly Needs Amended

To achieve a Clean Future, New Mexico will have to begin a thoughtful transformation to clean energy and away from fossil fuels. A recent report from Gridlab shows that to reach the 50% pollution reduction target by 2030, New Mexico would have to achieve targets in the range of:

  • 95% pollution reduction from current levels in the power sector;
  • More than 90% reduction in upstream oil and gas methane emissions;
  • At least 55% of new passenger vehicle sales would be electric; 
  • 20-30% emissions reductions from commercial and residential buildings; 
  • 70% of new furnaces and water heaters must be electric;
  • All sectors must comply with emissions reductions.

This is a daunting challenge. Hence the importance of legislation with teeth that could guide and enforce progress.

While we here at Retake Our Democracy would welcome a legislative mandate to create, monitor, report on, and enforce ambitious greenhouse gas emission (GHG) limits, we feel that HB6 lacks the language to achieve that goal and leaves escape routes that the gas and oil industry and the state could drive a tank through. But before we get to our need for change to strengthen the bill, we want to identify what we support:

  • the new requirements and agency authority set forth in the bill, including the authority provided to NMED and the obligation to pursue implementing regulations by a fixed date;
  • the GHG reporting required of all state entities;
  • the evaluation of impacts on overburdened communities;
  • the policy identification process assigned to NMED, EMNRD and other relevant agencies to meet the bill’s emission reduction requirements.

We believe these reports and the annual report by EMNRD could help stakeholders assess the state’s progress in reducing GHGs and opportunities to drive further reductions to benefit New Mexico and its overburdened communities. We also believe that with substantive changes to put more teeth into the act, the CFA presents an opportunity to benchmark, monitor, and enforce progress in pursuit of the state’s GHG emissions’ goals.

Amendments Needed for Retake to Support HB6

Among the important changes we seek:

  1.  Advance the start date of the rulemaking. We are concerned the 2025 deadline to initiate a rulemaking may jeopardize the 2030 emission reduction requirements. If a petition is not submitted until 2025, given the time needed to hold hearings, take comments, approve a rule, and defend it from court challenges, a final rule could be delayed until 2027 or later. This would provide little time to achieve 2030 goals. We recommend that rulemaking begin no later than January 1, 2023. It will be interesting to hear how the sponsors justify delaying rule making until 2025. It seems transparent that this is intended to give the and gas and oil industry a three-year pass on doing anything. 
  2. Include language to identify, describe, and reduce adverse impacts to overburdened communities. The bill should identify and advance benefits to those communities as well as define a process to coordinate with overburdened communities in developing protocols.
  3. Expand definition of “direct emissions” to include emissions from all sectors. The definition provided for “direct emissions” should be changed to ensure all relevant emitting sectors are covered, including electricity generation, both imported and produced in-state; in-state leaking, venting, or flaring of a greenhouse gas; combustion of transportation fuels, heating fuels, and other fuels powering equipment or processes combusted in New Mexico; buildings, structures, and other distribution systems; residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial waste management; and agricultural, silvicultural, and other industrial or manufacturing processes. We need to measure all emissions.
  4. Remove language referencing “net emissions” and “offsets.” The construct of “net emissions” should be entirely removed, along with language describing “offsets,” which we feel provides the gas and oil industry and the state an accounting trick to achieve “net emissions” goals while failing to sufficiently reduce direct emissions. Direct emissions are the only emissions that matter. Net emissions offer the state a way to pronounce achievement of emissions goals without actually doing anything except successful adoption of accounting tricks.
  5. Count emissions estimated to result from export of NM gas, and oil. To authentically advance real climate goals, we call for including a reporting requirement for exported fossil fuels. While NM does not regulate out-of-state downstream emissions from fossil fuels, it is important that the state understand the GHG impacts of those fuels. We suggest adding language to include reporting on “estimated current and projected emissions from all fossil fuels produced in New Mexico and exported for use outside of the state.”
  6. Strengthen enforcement by including a Private Right of Action. There should be a backstop enforcement mechanism. We must anticipate that efforts to enforce this law may be challenged in court, or a future administration may decline to enforce the law. In any case, achievement of required emission reductions could be undermined. A backstop enforcement provision should be included in the statute that would provide a private right of action for NM residentsif the CFA is not being enforced by the EIB and/or NMED. If  by Dec. 31, 2030 the greenhouse gas emissions limit of 50% of 2005 levels is not being enforced due to agency inaction, court action, or for any other reason, thena person would have the explicit right to go to any district court and ask the court to force the state to take immediate steps to adhere to emissions limits set forth in HB6. We would like to see opportunities for NM residents to take action before 2030 if it is apparent progress is not occurring.
  7. A Special Report should be published by the end of 2022 to inform 2023 legislation. The CFA should include a special report in 2022. The Governor has signaled an intent for more comprehensive climate legislation in 2023. EMNRD’s and NMED’s first full report on emissions, progress and needed policies/regulations, however, occurs after the 2023 legislative session.

Failure to incorporate the changes above will result in Retake’s continued opposition to HB6.

While we want to acknowledge Sierra Club’s excellent analysis of HB6, which served as a framework for our recommendations, Retake’s position goes further than Sierra Club’s. This summary, while indebted to Sierra Club, should not be interpreted as precisely reflecting their position. 

Categories: Climate Justice, Uncategorized

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