Saturday was a big onefor environmental issues at New Mexico Legislature. Two landmark bills were on the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee’s debate plate: HJR2 and HJR3. Environmental Rights Act, which would amend California’s constitution to make a healthy and clean environment a constitutional right. The state would be the trustee for those natural resources. Clean Future ActThe law would codify Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishams statewide pledges to reduce carbon emissions and creates a carbon tax that will be used to fund and enforce these reduction goals.
Both bills, if passed, would fundamentally change the way the state views its natural resources legally and how it reduces greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors. That would be a remarkable turn for the No. 2 Oil producing stateIn the country
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You might expect rapid debates about Democratic-sponsored legislation in a Democratic State with a Democratic Legislature, and a Democratic Governor.
But that’s not the case. Instead, pro oil and gas representatives insisted that they grandstand and delay legislation, even if it is for hours that has an impact on the climate.
After arguments had gotten to the seventh hour, the head of the committee begged his Republican counterparts to keep the proceedings short in the interests of humanity. They persevered.
The Environmental Rights Act was defeated and the Clean Future Act was passed by the full House.
A poll of around 300 people who logged on to view the meeting revealed that 79% of them favored the Environmental Rights Act.
Saturday’s extravaganza was made more significant by the spectacular tanking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishams Hydrogen hub Development Act was presented in the same committee at end of January. The bill was billed as an economic and environmental revolution for the state by Michelle Lujan Grishams, but it was widely disapproved by environmental groups and then reintroduced after both Republicans & Democrats voted against.
Proponents and critics of the Environmental Rights Act shared common fault lines. Arguments were also common. There were many environmental groups and individuals who supported it, while there was opposition from industry and business. A poll of around 300 people who watched the meeting online showed 79% support for the measure.
Aimee Barrabe, chief lobbyist of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, (NMOGA), the state’s largest oil and natural gas trade group, testified against NM’s Environmental Rights Act. Her main argument was an appeal for legislators, and not petroleum producers. She claimed that the bill would deprive the Legislature of its power, and give it to judges.
NMOGA receives upwards of $3,000,000 per year in lobbying and advertising for oil and gas development in the State. Only a small fraction of this amount is recorded in state lobbying records. However, those who are able to afford it have a lot more. Few recordsShow donations to elected officials on both the legislative and political sides, including Democrat Rep. Meredith Dixon who is on this committee.
There were more than three hours of unhappy comments from legislators. Republican Rod Montoya, a representative from Farmington in the middle of the natural-gas-producing San Juan Basin, went through a string of speculative arguments about the threat of drive-by lawsuits against the state by people intent on stymying business.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association receives upwards of $3,000,000 per year to lobby for oil and gas development. Only a small fraction of this amount is recorded in state lobbying records.
Since his 2014 victory against a poor-funded Democrat, Montoya is unopposed in all three elections. He has received nearly $190,000. In that time, almost half of his campaign contributions have come from oil and natural gas or utilities. These are the largest businesses in his area.
McQueen, the chairman for the committee, told him, “We are not going to have time to run through every possible scenario.” Sen. Antoinette Sedel-Lopez (Albuquerque Democrat) sponsored the joint legislation. She defended it in Saturday’s hearing, stating that “That parade of horribles” has never occurred in Montana or Pennsylvania (or New York), the three states with similar laws.
Despite strong public support for this bill, the other three Republicans in the committee, Reps. Larry Scott James Townsend James Strickler and Reps. James Townsend all work in or retired from oil and natural gas industries.
A vote to place the bill on the table was not taken until three and a-half hours after the meeting began. McQueen stated that the bill was in limbo and died.
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The second isThe Clean Future Act, would codify Gov. Lujan Grishams calls for drastic reductions in CO2 emissions.
It was sponsored by House speaker Brian Egolf, Senate President pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, and Rep. Nathan Small. They set timelines and goals for a reduction of 50% of 2005’s statewide CO2 emissions levels by 2030 and a 90% reduction in 2050.
The Clean Future Act would allow the New Mexico Environment Department and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Departments to implement a carbon-tax scheme and establish an offset or emission credit market for polluters.
The legislation does not mention the oil and natural gas industry, which accounts for 53% of all state’s greenhouse gas emissions. If the act is passed, the emissions will have to fall by half within the next eight years.
Where can Indigenous people fit in the settlers’ market system?
Julia Bernal, director of Pueblo Action Alliance
The opening remarks from the public revealed that there was little to no agreement between the largest industry lobbyists of the state and youth and Native environmental activists.
Oil and gas lobbyists see the bill as another tax on their operations. Some activists fear that industry will use emission offset credits to get around the problem of pollution reduction.
Julia Bernal, director at the Pueblo Action Alliance, is against a carbon price that commodifies our Father Sky. She asked: Where do Indigenous people fit in the settlers market system?”
Bernal and others stated that the act was not written with tribal communities in mind and that Indigenous voices were left out.
Others criticized the bill for not moving fast enough in light the growing climate crisis. They demanded that the deadlines be extended by several years. Many of the actions contained in the act would not begin until 2025.
Montoya, a San Juan Basin Republican, voted against the bill.
He again offered lengthy, hypothetical arguments, often appearing to have made them up on the spot. It’s just a quick Google; it’s not accurate, Montoya stated at one point, when Montoya was questioning Small, who supported the bill during the hearing.
He also mentioned dinosaurs and cattle flatulence, an argument that prompted Erik Schlenker Goodrich, the executive director at the Western Environmental Law Center to address the issue. TweetI don’t know what he is saying.
The Clean Future Act was approved by the committee more than seven hours after it began. The bill now goes to the full House where it will likely be debated for as long.
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