March 11, 2019

Rural and indigenous communities will not be left behind

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The San Juan Generating Station, flanked by its surface coal mines on the desert north of the San Juan River west of Farmington, New Mexico. Flickr cc

The Energy Transition Act, Senate Bill 489 (SB 489) now inches closer to the governor’s desk –increasing the opportunity for our state to become a clean energy leader.

With this bold piece of legislation moving forward, there’s a growing opportunity to diversify New Mexico’s economy by investing to develop our clean energy industry. Most importantly, this represents a chance for every New Mexican family to be able to access the emerging clean, safe, and good paying jobs ensuring our children and communities can thrive.

And all the while SB 489 has solidified the fact New Mexicans understand our move to a clean energy world is not a matter of why, rather a matter of when, there have been many questions of how we will ensure to not leave New Mexican communities behind.

Knowing workers in rural and indigenous communities continue to have very few choices when it comes to job opportunities and could be left behind as clean energy jobs are created, preparing our workforce for the emerging clean energy economy has become one of our state’s topmost priorities.

The investment in this preparation is essential knowing this will help to level the playing field, foster family stability and bring brighter futures for children across New Mexico –while putting New Mexicans first.

This year, we have jump-started the process of creating a blueprint for this clean energy future for rural communities through House Bill 547 –a Workforce Development Study for the Clean Energy Economy. This blueprint will ensure that our rural, indigenous, and communities of color are not left behind and are afforded access to every resource necessary to take advantage of the exciting new job opportunities in the years ahead.

For the completion of this study, the expertise of the Department of Workforce Solutions will be enlisted to accomplish the following time-critical objectives:

  • Prepare a report with recommendations by July 15, 2020, on the opportunities for and barriers to prepare and transition to a clean energy economy in low-income and rural communities.
  • Study and provide recommendations on the need for increased education, career and technical education, job training and workforce development to help industries, workers, and communities have access to clean energy jobs.
  • Identify in its report disadvantaged communities to prioritize for economic development opportunities to prepare for a sustainable and clean energy economy.
  • A final report will be provided to the Governor and presented to the Economic and Rural Development interim committee that address economic development issues by October 1, 2020.

The right path for thriving rural and indigenous communities in NM comes in the form of wind and solar energy accompanied by strong investments in job training, apprenticeships, and other employment services for local workers.

We believe everyone who works hard deserves a chance to prosper, and in order to thrive, we will ensure rural workers have a fair shot at these clean, safe, and good-paying jobs.

Our rural and indigenous economies will be built on our strengths: clean energy sources and hardworking families.

Angelica Rubio is a Democratic state representative from the 35th district and Benny Shendo is a Democratic state senator from the 22nd district.