Power the Future is gathering signatures in attempt to get Energy Transition Act repealed

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Travelers and commuters driving on U.S. Highway 550 near the intersection with Magnum Road just south of Bloomfield may notice a new billboard.

It reads in all capital letters “Radical environmentalists think that they own New Mexico. Let’s prove them wrong.” It includes a link to a website, EnergyTransitionTruth.com.

This website is owned by energy advocacy group Power the Future and is part of the group’s efforts to repeal the Energy Transition Act.

“We wanted to let energy workers know that they are not alone in their concerns about the Energy Transition Act,” said Larry Behrens, western states director for Power the Future.

The website describes the Energy Transition Act as a “mini version of the extreme socialist ‘Green New Deal’ currently being touted by far left federal legislators.”

MORE:Which groups worked to draft the Energy Transition Act? Here's what we know

It further claims that the new renewable portfolio standards included in the Energy Transition Act will lead to job losses and higher electric bills.

Behrens said the petition will be presented to lawmakers during the next legislative session.

Power the Future is installing this billboard along U.S. Highway 550 south of Bloomfield.

Was the law 'rushed'?

Behrens said the law was rushed through the legislative session — citing emails the group obtained through public records requests that showed changes being made to the bill just days before it was introduced. Behrens said the bill was introduced midway through the 2019 legislative session and passed within a short period of time.

He said the current debate in the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission about the applicability of the Energy Transition Act underscores that the law was pushed through too quickly. 

MORE:Energy advocacy group questions outside influences in Energy Transition Act

The repeal effort drew some fire from Santa Fe.

"The Energy Transition Act provides essential transition and economic development and training funding for coal workers and communities; it will result in cost savings for New Mexico ratepayers; it will ensure New Mexico is prepared to maximize the enormous potential of the future energy industry. Those are the facts," Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor's office, said via email. "I have no comment on a bad faith effort from a bad faith 'organization' paid to advance falsehoods about a balanced law that will unequivocally benefit New Mexicans."

A controversial act

The Energy Transition Act split the New Mexico House of Representatives, passing on a 43 to 22 vote before it received bipartisan support in the Senate. Thirty-two of the 42 state senators voted in favor of the bill following a multi-hour filibuster by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington. One of the state senators recused himself from the vote.

MORE:Bill focused on San Juan Generating Station closure passes Senate

The Energy Transition Act traces its origins to the 2017 integrated resource portfolio filed with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission by Public Service Company of New Mexico. This filing included plans to close the San Juan Generating Station in 2022 when the coal purchase agreement ends.

The following legislative session, PNM worked with legislators to introduce a bill that would allow the utility to refinance investments into the plant. When that bill failed, PNM and environmental advocates as well as Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and several legislators worked together to draft the Energy Transition Act and get it passed.

MORE:Does NM's new energy law apply to San Juan Generating Station?

Activist critical of group

The new law includes components important to this area, such as economic assistance, Mike Eisenfeld, the energy and climate program manager for San Juan Citizens Alliance, highlighted when reached by phone Oct. 30.

“I don’t know why an out-of-state, Koch-funded group is even involved in our local matters,” Eisenfeld said.

MORE:2 bills would provide financing mechanism for closure of San Juan Generating Station

Power the Future was founded by Daniel Turner, who formerly worked for Charles Koch Institute.

Eisenfeld said the billboard south of Bloomfield shows that Power the Future is well funded.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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