A just transition to clean energy must be led by our communities

Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces) and Rep. Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland)

As a former miner in Northwest New Mexico, and the daughter of immigrants who settled in the rural southeast Permian Basin, we became lawmakers to help protect our people and our land, while also protecting the economic futures of working families.

In the Navajo Nation, we see firsthand how miners and frontline communities are impacted by changes to our energy industry. In the Permian Basin, we have witnessed oil and gas become a pillar of our New Mexico economy at the expense of the health and livelihoods of workers, primarily immigrant workers.

Angelica Rubio
Anthony Allison.

Our efforts this past legislative session are a reminder of how important it is to ensure that our communities remain at the center of our policy work, especially when addressing climate change. 

While we absolutely recognize that New Mexico’s wealth from and dependence on fossil fuel extraction has been at the expense of the environment and the land we love, we also know that we cannot advance a just transition to clean energy without bringing along the communities who will be most impacted. 

Often, it is the people from these impacted communities who not only best understand the challenges they face, but also hold the solutions to those challenges. It is a strategy that has been proven around the world - when we center communities and their livelihoods, we combat climate change faster. 

This session, for example, we worked together with Power4 New Mexico -  a coalition of  native, immigrant, and low wage workers and their families, living in the corners of the state we hold dearest - to make sure legislation impacting our environment and economy also addressed the needs of our communities.

This group of advocates from indigenous, immigrant, and disenfranchised communities led the push for House Bill 188, the Economic Transition Act, which sought to create a Division of Economic Transition within the Department of Economic Development. While HB188 did not make it across the finish line, this coalition of community advocates are building a multicultural and multigenerational road map that we can use to justly transition and diversify our economy and become a clean energy beacon for the rest of the world.  

With this in mind and with the support of our new Speaker of the House and House Appropriations and Finance Chair, we utilized our budget as a tool to address not just climate, but the intersectional issues that impact our communities - dedicating over $125 million to support New Mexico on our journey to clean energy. This includes nearly $15 million for displaced energy workers, and over $16 million to support communities like San Juan County and the Permian Basin that will be most impacted by the transition. Our budget also includes over $50 million for economic development projects related to our energy transition, and more than $55 million to help state research universities access matching funds and spur research and innovation related to energy and climate. 

This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to work with the next generation of leadership in the legislature to not only hold tight to our values, but live them every day. Our progress in this session proved that when we listen to and trust our frontline communities, they can lead us towards a sustainable economy that prioritizes our people, our land, and our water.