Energy bills signed into law by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard joined Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for the signing of a bill into law that would emphasize more transparency as the State Land Office deals with oil and gas and energy companies – one of Garcia Richard’s signature campaign promises

State law will now require more transparency during large-scale energy operations, including electrical transmission and oil and gas pipelines.

The law also calls for public notices and input before final actions are taken on proposed land sales, exchanges and rights of way.

Senate Bill 458 was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-15). It was signed by Lujan Grisham on Monday.

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“This is a huge success for the land office and for communities across New Mexico. I am grateful to Gov. Lujan Grisham for signing this bill and to Sen. Ivey-Soto for being a champion of transparency in our government,” Garcia Richard said.

“When we are making decisions that involve state trust lands, which belong to the citizens of New Mexico, everyone should have ample opportunity to provide feedback on those decisions. Thanks to the Governor, they now have a seat at the table.”

Lujan Grisham commended Garcia Richard for delivering on her campaign promises of more transparency and public involvement at the Stat Land Office.

She said broader discussions about access to State Trust lands would likely benefit more New Mexicans, in ensuring state land is used most effectively and in protection of cultural and environmental concerns.

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New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard looks for gas leaks at an oil and gas facility in Eddy County.

“This is an example of a person who was committed on the campaign trail to improved transparency, government accountability, and to be the custodian of our public lands in a meaningful, protective, and productive way so that every New Mexican has the benefit of our entrusted public lands and a Senator who helped her make that a reality for every single New Mexican,” Lujan Grisham said after signing the bill.

Hearings on proposed lease sales or exchanges of State Trust land would be held in Santa Fe and in the communities near the anticipated activity.

Notice of hearings are to be published on the State Land Office’s website, and in newspapers in Santa Fe and in the impacted local community.

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The notices were also required to give details about the proposal including descriptions of the land offered for sale or exchange, along with summaries of potential effects on the environment and nearby lands.  

“One of the really important aspects of what the Commissioner brought forward is making sure that there is a hearing in the community where activity is going to take place,” Ivey-Soto said.

Energy Transition Act becomes law

Following the recent 60-day legislative session, Lujan Grisham also signed into law a bill many called “landmark legislation” that would require New Mexico to shift to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045.

Senate Bill 489, also known as the Energy Transition Act (ETA), set numerous benchmarks and goals for a 25-year transition away from fossil fuels and into renewables such as wind and solar energy.

The law also provides funding for renewable energy development to replace a coal power plant in San Juan County.

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It also paid for severance packages and workforce training and apprenticeships to assist workers displaced by the closure.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the Energy Transition Act.

“This is a really big deal,” Lujan Grisham said. “In every corner of this state, advocates, utilities, young adults, unions, elected officials and families came together to push for and, today, enact this transformational law.

“The Energy Transition Act fundamentally changes the dynamic in New Mexico. This legislation is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans, who will benefit from both a cleaner environment and a more robust energy economy with exciting career and job opportunities.

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“Crucially, the Energy Transition Act does not leave affected workers and neighbors behind. We look out for each other. With this law, we seal that promise.”

The ETA was sponsored by a group of five Democrat senators and representatives, including Sens. Jacob Candelaria (D-26) and Mimi Stewart (D-17), and Reps. Nathan Small (D-36), Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-13), and Speaker of the House Rep. Bryan Egolf (D-47).

“The ETA cements New Mexico’s place as a national leader in the transition to a new, renewable energy economy,” Candelaria said. “Unlike other states, the bill doesn’t leave our neighbors that have relied on the coal industry behind.

"The bill will drive hundreds of millions of dollars investments in workers and communities to ensure a just transition to our state’s renewable energy future.”

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the Energy Transition Act.

The bill was also supported by Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Cabinet Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst, who said it was “unparalleled” in protecting the environment along with workers during the transition away from fossil fuels.

“New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act is the strongest package of its kind in the country,” Propst said. “The renewable and zero-carbon standards, apprenticeship opportunities, securitization tool for retiring uneconomic coal plants, and state programmatic and financial assistance for the affected community are unparalleled.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the law would ensure the safety of future generations of all New Mexicans.

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“This legislation is a milestone for not just the state of New Mexico and the southwest, but all of the U.S., including tribal communities,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

“I applaud the governor, lawmakers, and cabinet secretaries for their work. This is a gift for our children and children of New Mexico who are yet to be born. Clean energy is the future of our nation.”

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Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.