Environmentalists celebrate passage of Energy Transition Act
Environmentalist and non-profits throughout New Mexico rejoiced as a bill was sent to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be signed into law, calling for New Mexico to transition to renewable energy and have 100 percent carbon-free power by 2045.
The Energy Transition Act (ETA) set multiple required milestones for electricity in New Mexico. It calls for half of the state’s energy to be carbon-free by 2030, and 100 percent by 2045.
The bill would also establish a goal of 80 percent carbon-free energy by 2040.
The ETA also provided financial assistance to companies shifting away from fossil fuels, and to workers displaced during a facility’s transition, specifically for a coal power plant in San Juan County that could be shutting down.
The bill passed the Senate last week and was approved by the House on Monday.
Lujan Grisham championed the bill after it was passed, calling it a “promise” to future generations of New Mexicans.
She supported and promoted the bill since it was introduced, and now Lujan Grisham’s signature is the last step before it becomes state law.
“When we were presented the chance to move toward cleaner sources of energy, we took it, boldly charting a course to a carbon-free future, permanently centering our commitment to lower emissions and setting an example for other states,” Lujan Grisham said. “Crucially, this legislation does not leave our neighbors in San Juan County behind, as we will provide millions for trainings and economic development.”
Up to 1,000 members of the New Mexico Sierra Club contacted lawmakers in support of the ETA, read a news release from the organization, citing public safety and environmental concerns along with the economic development the transition to renewable energy could provide.
Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter said the bill could mean more affordable power for New Mexicans, worrying that the U.S. only has 12 years to prevent destruction caused by climate change.
“Passage of the Energy Transition Act gives great hope to New Mexico and everyone who wants a livable future on our planet,” she said. “The Energy Transition Act is an innovative and powerful answer to that clarion call. This is a significant win for New Mexico ratepayers, our environment, workers and communities in the Four Corners region who will have new opportunities to participate in our growing clean energy economy.”
A group of Eddy County business leaders known as the Bat Brigade met with New Mexico officials to discuss statewide and local issues. Wochit
David Coss, chair of the Rio Grand Chapter commended the legislation for moving toward renewable energy, while respecting the need of workers in the fossil fuel industry and at the San Juan Generating Station.
“Moving to a clean-energy economy shouldn’t mean leaving behind the people who have worked to keep our lights on for decades,” he said. “This legislation addresses the economic, environmental and justice impacts of retiring San Juan Generating Station. It creates funding to ensure that the Four Corners community isn’t left in the cold in a post-coal economy.”
An increase in New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standards could mean cheaper energy costs for businesses and residents alike, read a news release from the Sierra Club.
Such standards were credited with reducing solar and wind costs by more than 70, read the release, since 2009.
“Most importantly, this bill is simply a necessity to save our future,” Feibelman said. “Especially if other states take our lead, this truly is life-saving legislation.”
Brian Condit, president of New Mexico Building Trades said the ETA could help provide the needed training to ensure job growth during New Mexico’s transition to renewable energy.
A section of the bill offers financial support to transitioning utilities for job training and apprenticeships for worker needed during the shift.
“We applaud New Mexico legislators for investing in invaluable 21st-century job training and apprenticeship opportunities,” Condit said. “The ETA’s passage shows New Mexico businesses – and companies nationwide – that our state is open for business and committed to building a pipeline of skilled workers.”
Marcela Diaz, executive director of Santa Fe-based non-profit Somos Un Pueblo Unido said the act would provide needed jobs to rural communities with high rates of unemployment.
She said the ETA could also establish New Mexico as a national leader in renewable energy.
"The Energy Transition Act sets the course for new, good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector,” Diaz said. “Those jobs will help rural New Mexico and other parts of the state where unemployment remains high. We're excited about New Mexico becoming a national leader in clean energy jobs."
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Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.