Committee OKs bill aiming to make New Mexico carbon-free
SANTA FE - The bill aiming to make New Mexico's electricity generation 100 percent carbon-free by 2045 made it through the Senate Conservation Committee on a 5-3 "do-pass" recommendation vote Saturday afternoon after senators voted to adopt several amendments.
The Energy Transition Act, Senate Bill 489, calls for a transition to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 with a goal of 100 percent by 2045, creation of new jobs in the renewable energy sector and a financial mechanism known as securitization to cover the transition cost. The bill would also provide economic relief for communities where coal plants are now located.
The amendments introduced during the committee hearing by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, seek to ensure that consumers will not have to pay for the decommissioned San Juan Generating Station at the same time an energy transition charge is placed on the bills; respond to community concerns about the closure of the plant by creating an advisory committee representative of the population; and clarify other language, among other changes.
The amendments passed after considerable discussion among committee members.
Following the hearing, the Sierra Club issued a statement praising the legislation.
"The Energy Transition Act provides our state with an equitable transition from coal — one that actually benefits New Mexico ratepayers, the Four Corners community and workers, and our climate," said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The bill has been lauded by supporters as having the potential to make New Mexico a leader in renewable energy, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham considers it priority legislation.
The Public Service Company of New Mexico, the state's largest provider of electricity, has come out in support of the bill. PNM has been taking steps toward expanding its renewable energy portfolio and is planning to shut down the San Juan station near Farmington in 2022.
"The Energy Transition Act, or SB 489, took another important step today to bring New Mexicans closer to a clean energy future," PNM said in statement Saturday. "While this bill challenges PNM, we look forward to tackling these opportunities in a way that will bring our state more environmentally friendly energy while maintaining reliability and affordability."
Prior to the amendments being adopted, dozens of people spoke in favor and in opposition to the bill.
Those in favor included numerous government officials and representatives from interest and trade groups such as the Sierra Club and the New Mexico Building and Construction Trade Council.
Alicia Keyes, secretary of economic development, said, "We feel like it's a progressive, and responsible, thoughtful transition — especially with regards to economic development and creating green energy jobs."
Those who spoke in opposition voiced concerns about the bill's language, said it would erode the Public Regulation Commission's authority, and said it could potentially harm the communities that depend on the San Juan power plant for jobs.
However, many of those speaking in opposition to the bill voiced support for its overall goals.
"We support those goals, very, very strongly," said Paul Gibson, co-founder of Retake Our Democracy. "Our one concern, and one of our biggest concerns, is that the language of the bill doesn't necessarily support those goals."
Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett said he opposes the bill and worries about the loss of jobs stemming from the shuttering of the San Juan plant.
The amended bill advanced on a 5-3 vote.
The Energy Transition Act now moves to the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee.