Jason Sandell
Jason Sandell (Jason Sandell)

Life is full of choices. Oftentimes we are excited about the prospect, the choices, which control our own destiny, but we are prisoners to that with which we are familiar.

But, choices are funny. Having choices means that you have to make a decision in order to move down one path or another. Making such a decision is fraught with second-guessing, and sometimes remorse and regret -- never knowing how the other choice would have worked out. Would the other path have been better?

Our community is faced with a monumental choice. The choice we make will have implications for decades. The ramifications of this choice will be seen in future economic development, our community's culture, our environment, and even our jobs. Our choice is to stick with the past or to select something new.

The choice of, "We've always done it that way" versus "great potential" is always a tough one because, for most, the answer comes down to the devil you know best. In our case we can choose to double down on coal-fired power generation or we can join a growing movement across the United States and invest in natural gas.

The New Mexico Environment Department has now come to an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This agreement ensures the closing of 50 percent of our coal-fired power generation and lower environmental pollution protection. In real terms, this deal results in NMED exporting 750 megawatts of local power generation to other states.

The fuel by which the electricity will be produced will be developed elsewhere. The electric generation and export of the electricity will be elsewhere. The result is that our community loses and our state loses. We lose coal miners' jobs, we lose power plant jobs, we lose environmental upgraders' jobs, we lose natural gas producers' jobs. We lose jobs, jobs, jobs!

Is there a better choice? Absolutely -- several of them.

I am an unabashed advocate for natural gas. Natural gas vehicles, natural gas power generation and natural gas exports. I'm a pusher for natural gas exploration, natural gas development and natural gas consumption. In fact, I believe that choosing natural gas will provide a revival for our community; whereas, the alternative is bleak.

We have the power (no pun intended) and the ability to convert so many facets of the community we live in by adopting a philosophy embracing something new. Certainly, it's dangerous. Perhaps even a little more money up front. But, our possibilities in a new energy economy become immense.

Just the other day the Farmington City Council -- on yet another 3-2 decision -- decided to reinvest our new dollars in old-time energy production technology. It is this way of doing things that power companies from across the United States are running away from. In fact, those companies want to get away so fast that they are offering their power generation ownership for free. The city of Farmington has now voted to double down and ride the dying horse of the past and to take on this coal-generated liability which no one else accepts as wise.

The alternative is one where we could reject this "free" power, we could reject the NMED's "good deal" and we can make an informed choice looking to the future of our community. We could choose to follow the advice of our consultants and build new power generation capabilities centered in natural gas. We could partner with those companies that are offering us the "done it that way" power for free and develop the next generation of power generation for the San Juan. We could even mandate that the natural gas come from the San Juan Basin -- similar to a coal mine.

Yes, lives are going to change. Yes, we're going to have to retool. Yes, it will cost more up front. But, our future will be ensured as opposed to always protecting the past.

I am worried about the choices made by the state and the majority of the City Council. I truly believe that the choices they have made ignore the potential our community has at its fingertips. But, I am excited about the choice that we can make if enough of us work to have our voices heard.

This is our choice!

Jason Sandel is a Farmington city councilor. He is also executive vice president of Aztec Well Servicing.