Opinion: Farmington's state rep calls for energy secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst to resign

Rep. Rod Montoya
State Rep. Rod Montoya

A few weeks ago, we learned that Sarah Cottrell Propst, the secretary for New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, asked her former employer, Interwest Energy Alliance, to review and provide input on a significant piece of legislation that was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.  

This legislation, the Energy Transition Act, mandates renewable energy standards for New Mexico’s utility companies and electric co-ops, with a goal of achieving 100% carbon-free energy use in New Mexico by 2050.  

The requirements of this new law could dramatically increase utility bills and eliminate thousands of high-paying jobs. In states that have imposed renewable mandates of just 30%, ratepayers have seen their utility bills increase as much as 200%.  

New Mexicans deserve to know how this bill came together and who stands to profit from it. Interwest is not a neutral think tank that can offer an objective bill analysis. They represent a collection of renewable energy corporations that stand to make millions of dollars as the new law goes into effect.  

According to its website, Interwest, “is a leading regional driver for the responsible expansion of renewable energy in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.” However, out of the 20 organizations represented on Interwest’s board, only two have their headquarters in the targeted six states. None are based in New Mexico. 

Five are based in California. Another handful are headquartered in East Coast states like Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. Several are large multi-national corporations based in Europe. 

Some of the companies on Interwest’s board manufacture equipment such as solar panels and wind turbines. Others broker deals for renewable energy projects. If you think they care about the impact this legislation will have on you and your family, think again.   

Cottrell Propst said that critics of her coordination with Interwest were “making something out of nothing.” Consider this scenario: Donald Trump appoints the head of the American Petroleum Institute as his Energy Secretary. The Energy Secretary then sends to Congress a major policy overhaul that will substantially benefit his former employers in the oil industry.  

The legislation becomes law. The public later learns that the secretary gave former employers insider access to review and shape the bill’s language. Do you think the environmental community or the American media would remain quiet? No, they would be outraged.  

This exact situation played out in Santa Fe. Cottrell Propst sold out New Mexico ratepayers to benefit her former corporate bosses. These billionaires will reap the rewards while ordinary New Mexicans will be stuck with the bill.  

I offered an amendment to the Energy Transition Act that would limit the impact on New Mexico’s ratepayers to no more than a 2% increase in any given year. This amendment was a reasonable step to protect New Mexicans from massive rate increases.  

The bill sponsors rejected this amendment and declined to include any automatic consumer protection triggers in the bill. They claimed that the increases that have happened in other states will not materialize in New Mexico.  

Could it be that my amendment was rejected because industry insiders did not want legislators to place a cap on their potential profits? I have to wonder.  

The Energy Transition Act creates a New Mexico where special interests profit at the expense of New Mexico’s working poor and people living on fixed incomes. The people who will be hurt most are those who are already struggling to make ends meet.  

Our public officials should represent the interests of New Mexicans and not the interests of foreign corporations. It’s time for Cottrell Propst to step down as New Mexico’s energy secretary. I’m sure the companies she helped will have no trouble providing her a soft landing.  

State Rep. Rod Montoya is a Republican who represents Farmington.