The Answer, My Friend, Is Blowing in the Wind: We Just Need to Act

How exactly does NM benefit from Pattern Energy exporting our wind to other states? They are pocketing significant profits that could be ours. Retake has been part of a coalition of NM advocates, Public Power NM, who have been meeting for months to research ways that NM could benefit more from our vast renewable energy resources, rather than just giving them away to energy corporations like Pattern Energy, a San Francisco-based global energy conglomerate, so they can reap the profits. There are alternatives. Plus we offer a gun violence prevention call to action.

Before we turn to Pattern Energy’s plan to extract our wind for their profit, a couple quick reminders.

Zoominar: Modernizing Our Legislature: Paid Staff, Longer Sessions, Paid Legislators, July 27, 6-7:30 p.m.

We think legislative reform could be the most important bill in 2023, as all big idea bills like public banking, public power, and Health Security would fare better with a legislature that operated more sanely. A legislature:

  • where hearings don’t extend into the early morning hours day after day;
  • where longer sessions make due deliberation possible;
  • where legislators vote on crucial legislation with adequate time to review bills
  • where legislators operating with dedicated staff can more easily engage constituents or receive their input;
  • where legislators don’t rely on bill sponsors or lobbyists to clarify legislation because they have dedicated, trusted staff who research the efficacy of proposed legislation.

There is a strong movement among a group of ten Democratic women state House members to address these structural barriers by reforming the New Mexico legislature with longer sessions, paid staff, paid legislators and more. We are the only state that doesn’t pay our legislators! We will be joined by two of the Reps involved in the work, Representatives Angelica Rubio (Las Cruces) and Kristina Ortez (Taos), activist Ricann Bock of Indivisible Santa Fe, and Cara Lynch, co-founder of Legislative Momentum. We will hear how these 10 legislators have worked collaboratively to develop a modernization plan. Our panelists will explain why this reform is needed, what modernization involves, and how differently the legislature could function. Please join the conversation and learn how you can help pass legislation in 2023 that will help our legislature become more efficient, more effective, and more equitable. You will be able to ask questions and to comment, during the last half hour of the Zoom.  Register here. You must register to attend.

The Answer is Blowin’ In the Wind

Pattern Energy has invested billions to enable access to more than 3,000 megawatts of OUR wind power that would be capable of meeting the needs of more than 2.5 million people. Permitting for the line has been in the works for years. Once complete, the bi-directional high-voltage line will span 550 miles (885 kilometers) from New Mexico to Arizona. All of this work is privately financed and while it will provide 150 permanent jobs, the profit will go to Pattern Energy in San Francisco.

What If?

What if instead of allowing Pattern to build the needed infrastructure and profit from our wind, we built the infrastructure using a combination of federal infrastructure funding and loans or bonds secured by our permanent fund? The profit would then be ours, serving to diversify our state economy and lessen our reliance on gas and oil revenues, and we could have those same 150 jobs to manage and maintain the grid and wind farm.

Yes, it is complicated, yes it is expensive to construct, but once done, the money invested will yield hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, sustainable over decades. Why do you think Avangrid wanted to merge with PNM? In their own words, they wanted to establish a “beachhead” in NM to do on a larger scale exactly what Pattern is doing. Why would they want to do that? Profit, lots of it. Why should NM want to do this? Sustainable revenue, lots of it. And not being beholden to capitalist entities like Pattern, whose sole obligation is to generate as much profit as possible.

What Is Possible?

While the Public Power NM coalition is not ready to publish a detailed plan for how NM could better benefit economically from its renewable energy resources, their website does offer what is possible in broad strokes. From Public Power Power NM’s website:

Public power utilities are community-owned, not-for-profit electric utilities that safely provide reliable, low-cost electricity to more than 49 million Americans. In contrast to the Investor Owned Utility (IOU) model, in which a private company holds a monopoly over electricity in their service area, publicly owned utilities do not exist for the purpose of shareholder profit, but rather to serve the local community.

Most public power utilities are owned by cities and towns, but many are owned by counties, public utility districts, and even states.

Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) like PNM, EPE and SPS have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to make as much money as possible – to raise rates, to discourage energy efficiency, to choose expensive generation sources that will yield higher guaranteed returns on capital from ratepayers and minimize expenses like customer service, repairs, upgrades and innovative investments in the grid. Public Power boards are responsible to safeguard the values and the welfare of the public.

Public power ownership is not a new concept. More than 1 in 7 Americans are served by a community owned electric utility, ranging from small entities like rural co-ops to large municipalities like the Los Angeles Power Authority, to the entire state of Nebraska. Public power ownership is a proven driver of lower rates, increased reliability and clean energy implementation, and can take many forms.

Public Power Power NM’s website

Gun Violence Prevention Interim Committee Hearing

  • Courts, Correcttions Justice Interim Committee
  • Tuesday, July 26, 9am-5pm
  • Senate Chamber ( I guess they are expecting a crowd)

I just got a note from Miranda Viscoli, asking for a big turnout for the July 26 hearing. The early session 9-11 should be interesting, but Miranda and her team present at 1:30. Agenda below.

Tuesday, July 26
9:00 a.m. Reconvene
9:05 a.m. (3) Update on National Gun Laws and States’ Ability to Regulate Guns
—Anne Teigen, Director, Criminal Justice Program, National Conference of
State Legislatures
10:30 a.m. (4) Update on the Effectiveness of Current Gun Violence Initiatives
—Matthew Broom, Deputy Chief, Department of Public Safety (DPS)
—Jason Greenlee, General Counsel, DPS
—Sheila Lewis, J.D., Extreme Risk Protection Order Trainer, New
Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence
—Benjamin Baker, Deputy Secretary and Interim Director, New Mexico
Law Enforcement Academy
—Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, Legislative Liaison, New Mexico Sheriffs’
11:30 a.m. Public Comment
12:00 noon Lunch
1:00 p.m. Public Comment
1:30 p.m. (5) Addressing Gun Violence in New Mexico
—Miranda Viscoli, Co-President, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence
—Richard Miskimins, M.D., Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of
New Mexico Health Sciences Center; Associate Trauma Medical
Director, University of New Mexico Hospital
—Ari Davis, Policy Advisor, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence
—Aryan Showers, Director, Office of Policy and Accountability,
Department of Health (DOH)
—Rachel Wexler, Acting Bureau Chief, Injury and Behavioral
Epidemiology Bureau, DOH
—Bill Foote, Forensic Psychologist, University of New Mexico
4:00 p.m. (6) Proposed Legislation to Combat Gun Violence in New Mexico
—Representative Pamelya Herndon
—Representative Dayan Hochman-Vigil
—Miranda Viscoli, Co-President, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence
—Regina Griego, Survivor Member Lead, New Mexico Chapter, Moms
Demand Action
5:00 p.m. Recess

The legislation that Miranda Viscoli will be presenting is to create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention as a state agency. The rationale for such an office is in the brief below. It is a quick read and worth reviewing before you submit public comment, written or oral.

You’ll find instructions to participate in the Zoom and offer public comment at the committee webpage at this link. Instructions are not crystal clear, but it appears you can register to comment via Zoom once the meeting starts. If you are going in person, you typically will find a sign-up sheet to offer public comment inside the meeting room. You can also just watch the Webcast at this link.

As always we recommend that you begin either oral or written comment with a personal story of how gun violence impacts you. This doesn’t require your having direct experience with gun violence. It could just be your personal fears that have been generated by the epidemic of gun violence across the nation. Note how I handled it in my prepared oral remarks below the pdf and the gun violence prevention Zoominar recording that follows it.

Zoominar on Gun Violence Prevention: Action & Legislation

Our Zoominar guests were Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, and Janae Martinez, a student activist from Albuquerque. We discussed gun violence in our state, what we can do to prevent it, what we want from the legislature in 2023, and advocacy strategies to achieve it.

My Written & Oral Comments

Mr. Chair, madam co-chair, committee members: My name is Paul Gibson. I am Co-founder of Retake Our Democracy and a resident of Senate District 25 and House District 47. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this afternoon.

You don’t need to know someone who has been injured or killed by gun violence to be impacted by gun violence. For example, just the other day, my wife, Roxanne, read me a story about a block long street party in ABQ with music, food, and fun. Before I had a chance to suggest we go, Roxanne said, “I’m not sure I feel comfortable going to an event like that after all the recent shootings.” We wound up not going for other reasons, but had we gone, Roxanne’s comment and the endless number of shootings of late would have had me on edge, my experience tainted by our fears.

Another example: Two years ago I came to the Roundhouse to offer comment in support of the Extreme Risk Protection Order. A large crowd of gun rights activists were outside and I had to walk through them to get inside. Many in the crowd were carrying automatic rifles, and one guy with a rifle wore a t-shirt that said: “I dare you, try to take my guns.” The shirt had a stencil on the front with a large, long barrel of a gun pointed straight at me. I was scared. Later inside in the hall, I tried to talk with one of these activists and told him how frightened I’d been just walking through the crowd. He laughed and trivialized my fears, saying no one was going to use any guns at the Roundhouse. I tried to explain that for someone who is not around guns, seeing them in the hands of angry folks is frightening.

If only these were the worst consequences of gun violence, but our children are afraid to go to school, in some neighborhoods gunfire is a daily event, and parents are afraid of their kids coming home from school, the park or a party. This is not how we have to live. We choose this life by failing to take courageous, responsible action.

The legislation proposed by New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence will not take anyone’s guns or usurp the rights of responsible gun owners. It will place in one state office the capacity to research effective practices in gun violence prevention policies and evaluate those in place in NM. It will also, provide a place where the legislature can allocate multi-year funding to support community-based training programs that train teachers, clergy, and parents how to identify children showing signs of suicidal ideation. Other trainings could be offered to police and the courts in evidence-based implementation of protective orders and Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

It is impossible for community organizations to retain quality staff to conduct this work when it is contingent upon uncertain annual allocations.

I don’t know if you saw Rep. Lord’s inflammatory email sent to her constituents about this meeting, but in part she stated: “We can anticipate bans on guns and magazines, mandatory locking up of firearms, felony charges against parents, expanded red flag laws, banning AR-15s, and more. I will attend the meeting and I would love to have more people in the audience ask questions.”

As you will hear, no such draconian proposals are being presented. But it would be more constructive to conduct these discussions in an honest manner, not by issuing alarmist emails sent just to draw a big crowd.

I hope members of this committee will not be intimidated, but will listen to the experts with an open mind.

I have kids and grand kids. I don’t ever want to get a call notifying me that one of my loved ones has just died in a hail of bullets. None of us ever wants that call. Can we try to be deliberate and thoughtfully consider common sense legislation that just might prevent more Americans, more New Mexicans from receiving that dreaded call? That so many people in Albuquerque, Oakland, Chicago, and most of urban America live with that dread is something we can address in legislatures across the nation. Let’s just do it!

Thank you fo your time and for your service.

In solidarity & hope,

Paul & Roxanne

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8 replies

  1. I see that Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, Legislative Liaison, New Mexico Sheriffs’
    Association will be presenting. Several years back, the Sandoval County Commission adopted a second amendment sanctuary ordinance. I attended that meeting. The word had been put out and the turn out was huge. Not with people in opposition but in support. Main proponent speakers were Tony Mace, head of the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association and Jesse James Casaus, Sandoval County Sheriff. A Democrat. It was a scary hostile gathering. Many people wearing side arms but not in uniform. There’s a sign at the door stating no firearms in the building so I guess all the people were law enforcement deputies. One would assume that such a bunch would be in favor of some sort regulations just to make their jobs safer. That was not the case. I would expect the 10:30 to 11:00 slot to be in opposition to any action or efforts that will be presented. If you attend, don’t be surprised.

  2. Paul, I hope this webinar will
    Be available in future days on the Retake website, because I’d have to get up at 2 am where I am to watch it live. But I’m very interested in yhe premise and have been saying the same thing since I arrived in NM 9 years ago. So we
    Think there’s any hope? It doesn’t seem to be high on the Senate’s priority liat.

  3. It’s often claimed that our State suffers from poverty and this is true but it’s because we are suffering more from a lack of leadership. We have about $35B in our sovereign wealth fund, why would we not start building wind and solar installations, first for our people and then for our Nation?

  4. A few years ago, Pattern Energy was purchased by the Canadian Retirement Fund. So not only are NM wind energy profits leaving the state, the profits are leaving the country.

    The NM State Investment Council oversees the “institutional-grade” investment of about $35billion. There is a policy document developed as a result of a House Memorial that lays out a New Mexico Renewable Energy Investment Strategy. It seems that because there are few or no “institutional-grade” opportunities in NM, we are not seeing much if any of this invested locally.

    The NM SIC does take direction from the legislature, but most of the legislature’s efforts seem to be wrapped around minor issues and expenditures, whereas a directive to the SIC to make a huge impact on NM by investing in public power could be $3-5 billion. A worthy investment in my view.

  5. If we take a closer look, or maybe it isn’t necessary make this effort, at ‘our'(?) federal government, we then can observe that in spite of the big salaries, pensions and fringe benefits, representatives and senator have always accepted ‘donations’ from the ruling classes.
    Or, do we really think that, for example, that oil and gas lobbyists ( paid well trained corruptors) will not further corrupt our representatives?

    I believe they deserve benefits while they serve, like health care. But not a salary!!

    Staff should receive appropriate salaries and carefully screened, like for honesty and moral and ethical standards….

  6. So, how many New Mexicans actually know about PPNM, as an institution dedicated to serve the bottom 90%?

    Not just the privileged need to know but the rest of New Mexicans.
    How many New Mexicans know and support the development of Coops. What they are, how they work and how they benefit us the people?
    Finally, how many honest, with correct ethical standards, support this type of transition.
    Beginning with the governor.

    There is much education to be done and even more true hope building in all of us.

    We need to face the reality of living in a country whose population has been deceived, lied and misled for decades. A population that has been purposely impoverished, under-educated and mis-educated.

  7. Fully agree with Carl and Daniel.

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