Roundhouse punch: New laws seek to reduce New Mexico's carbon footprint
Farmington legislator responds to perceived attack on extraction industry
FARMINGTON — Lawmakers have been introducing various pieces of legislation to meet the goals Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham set when she signed an executive order on Jan. 29 committing New Mexico to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The executive order calls for a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 levels by 2030.
“It’s all about climate change,” said Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington.
Sharer saw the executive order as an attack on the oil and gas industries and disputes some of the statistics referenced in the executive order, including the amount of money wasted through venting and flaring oil and natural gas.
He said no business would throw away $244 million worth of product.
The executive order prompted Sharer to draft and introduce a bill that would provide an income tax credit to oil and gas producers who make efforts to cut down on emissions.
“I wouldn’t have done it at all if the governor had not attacked the industry that funds New Mexico,” Sharer said.
He said 45 percent of the state’s budget this year comes from oil and gas revenue.
Education in New Mexico received $1.06 billion in funding from oil and gas revenue in fiscal year 2018, according to a press release from New Mexico Oil and Gas Association this week.
Sharer’s bill is one of dozens of bills that have been introduced that focus on climate change and the energy industries.
Investment into renewable energy
A bill introduced by Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, would require the state to invest at least one percent of its severance tax permanent fund into renewable energy. This would lead to a $49.5 million investment, according to the fiscal impact report attached to the bill.
“New Mexico has the potential to be a national leader in renewable energy among the 50 states and we have the second highest potential for utility-scale solar and the sixth highest potential for land-based wind energy,” Stapleton told the House Taxation and Revenue Committee during its meeting Feb. 13, which can be viewed online at nmlegis.gov.
Transmission infrastructure could be impacted by changes in the utility industries
Building new renewable energy generation sources could require new electricity transmission infrastructure. A bill sponsored by five Democratic Party state representatives would provide $300,000 to study renewable transmission infrastructure and storage in New Mexico. The fiscal impact report about the bill states that an updated study is needed because of the changing landscape of the state’s electric grid. This includes new power sources coming online as well as the pending shutdown of the San Juan Generating Station.
Funding transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy
Three state legislators — Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, have introduced legislation that would fund provide $200,000 to complete a renewable energy workforce development study.
If passed, the study need to be completed by July 15, 2020. It would examine opportunities and barriers that low-income and rural communities face while transitioning to a clean energy economy. It would also provide recommendations for education, job training and workforce development and identify which communities should be prioritized. The report would be finalized and presented to the governor by October 2020.
One state senator has proposed surtaxes on gasoline and natural gas to help fund the transition to renewable energy.
Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, has introduced a bill that would impose a gasoline surtax and a natural gas processors surtax starting in 2020 to fund new low-income home energy assistance, fossil fuel displaced workers and renewable energy technology funds.
The gasoline surtax would start at 9 cents for every gallon and would increase to 45 cents a gallon in 2024.
Lawmaker looks to reinstate solar tax credits
As New Mexico utilities transition to more renewable energy, lawmakers are also sponsoring bills to encourage residents and businesses to invest in solar power.
Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, has sponsored legislation that would reinstate an income tax credit to offset some of the costs of installing solar panels on homes or businesses. The previous tax credit expired in 2016.
“In a state that ranks second for solar potential nationwide, it’s crucial that New Mexicans have an easier path to installing solar on their own homes and businesses,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said in a press release praising the bill. “This legislation will not only incentivize more sun-powered energy across the state, it will continue to drive this important and promising sector forward in New Mexico, boosting the renewable energy economy and creating more green-collar jobs in solar manufacturing and installation.”
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.