HB 431 Local Government Utility Service Restrictions. Vote No!

HB 431 is sponsored by Rep. Martin Zamora, R-Clovis, and Rep. Harry Garcia, D-Grants. It narrowly passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on a 6-5 vote with Democrats Rep. Cynthia Borrego and Miguel Garcia, both of Albuquerque, voting with the Republicans to pass the bill.

What Is Wrong with HB 431?

On Feb 19, the NM Political Report broke a story on this disingenuous bill. “Bill preventing cities, counties from banning fuel sources passes committee,” describes how HB 431 is purportedly about preserving local autonomy, while deftly doing just the reverse. This bill had flown under our radar, but it appears to be designed to undermine local jurisdictions from implementing Local Choice Energy, should it pass into law.

Proponents laid out the usual fear-based falsehoods underlying how without this bill:

  • counties will ban gas stoves;
  • limits will be placed on access to gas or propane;
  • residents will be forced to give up their gas stoves;
  • residents will be forced to switch to more expensive renewable energy;
  • the sky will fall.

First of all, there is no such thing as “more expensive renewable energy.” SB 165 Local Choice Energy (LCE) would simply allow jurisdictions & tribes the authority to choose renewable energy instead of energy from their Investor Owned Utility (IOU). Customers would then be allowed to choose between the LCE provider or the IOU. No one is forced to do anything but choose.

In addition to undermining LCE, there is much more wrong with this bill.

HEENR Committee Chairman Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, argued that the fears that people will no longer be able to access gas to heat their homes are unfounded.

“No one’s coming for your gas stove,” McQueen said. “No one’s banning gas stoves. No one’s going into people’s houses and telling them to change out their utilities.”

The City of Santa Fe’s lobbyist, J.D. Bullington, explained that Santa Fe believes that HB 431 is inappropriate and would prohibit the city from making decisions about the type of power that it wants to purchase and provide to its residents.

HB 431 comes as the Legislature is considering a Local Choice Energy bill that would allow jurisdictions to begin generating or purchasing their own electricity to provide to residents. Bullington said the City of Santa Fe supports Local Choice Energy and asserts that it, and other municipalities, believe strongly in using only renewable energy.

So HB 431 is another industry crafted bill that purports to empower local communities but, in reality, handcuffs them and ties them to their existing IOU and the fossil-fuel infested energy mix they will foist on us.

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