June 5, 2019

Air, land and water: NM lawmakers by the numbers

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico environmental advocates say the state took a step forward during the 2019 legislative session by passing bills that address renewable energy and public health, but is lagging in solar-energy development.

Conservation Voters New Mexico has released its statewide Conservation Scorecard for the 2019 Legislature. Liliana Castillo, the group’s communications director, noted that shortly after taking office, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham focused on climate change. Castillo said she believes the executive order to place limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel drilling is in line with residents’ priorities.

“New Mexicans across the board really care about protecting our air, land and water and diversifying our economy – the things that people talk about are the most important things, right? We need more jobs, we need better education. We can do all those things and protect our environment,” Castillo said.

The scorecard analyzed 26 votes – 16 in the House and 10 in the Senate – on issues affecting air, land and water. Castillo said scores for each chamber remained roughly the same as last year: 72% for the House and 65% for the Senate. However, she said GOP lawmakers’ scores took a nosedive, while female legislators scored 15% higher overall on environmental issues than their male counterparts.

Disappointing to the conservation group was rejection of legislation to bring community solar development to the state. Castillo said 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have solar programs similar to the one proposed for New Mexico in the Community Solar Act, “which is a bill that would have made it so that New Mexicans can come together and, like in their neighborhood, to kind of crowd-source or crowd-fund a solar array and then the utilities would have to accept that power. So, that’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”

Castillo said Grisham set this year’s tone early by signing a critical executive order joining the U.S. Climate Alliance and directing state agencies to tackle out-of-control methane emissions. The Legislature passed 16 pro-conservation bills, the majority of which the governor signed into law.

The full report is online at scorecard.cvnm.org.