February 13, 2022

Clean Future Act heads to House floor

The Clean Future Act moved out of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Saturday after lengthy discussions that began the previous day.

The committee voted 6-3 to pass a committee substitute for HB 6. The vote fell on party lines after Chairwoman Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, limited the amount of time the three Republicans had to ask questions.

The Clean Future Act will now move to the House floor and Louis told the Republicans that they can ask the sponsor, Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, questions about the bill on their own time.

The bill coincides with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s efforts to address climate change and calls for reducing emissions across all sectors in the state with the goal of reaching net-zero emissions based on 2005 emissions levels. The bill sets milestones for emission reductions, including 50 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050.

“The climate crisis and climate change hits New Mexico hardest across every part of our state with everyone in our state,” Small said.

He said the increased temperatures, longer periods of drought and increased evaporation of snowpack cause cascading effects that “threaten us as New Mexicans in some very fundamental sorts of ways.”

“What HB 6 does, and what the committee substitute improves upon, is to ensure that we set the right standards, the right limits, and to unleash innovation to combat this catastrophic climate change,” he said.

The committee substitute clarifies what direct emission reductions are. Small said that will encourage early adoptions and ensure that the reductions are quantifiable. It also moves up the rulemaking process by the Environmental Improvement Board to 2024 instead of 2025 and requires that stakeholder meetings occur in at least three different regions of the state where disproportionately impacted communities are located.

The legislation has received mixed reactions from the environmental advocacy community, with some groups opposing it due to the inclusion of measures like carbon capture and sequestration as well as other carbon offsets including trading or sale of carbon credits. Other groups support it, but say that it needs to be strengthened.

The top three sectors emitting greenhouse gasses are oil and gas, transportation and electricity generation. Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, highlighted the economic impact that the oil and natural gas industries have in the state, including their contribution to the New Mexico budget. He questioned if passing the Clean Future Act will end up hurting the state’s coffers and he highlighted other efforts to curb emissions, including the Energy Transition Act, which set a path toward decarbonization of the electric utility industry, and the recently-implemented methane regulations for the oil and natural gas sector.

Small countered that, when done right, smart policies to reduce emissions can coincide with economic growth. He further said that cutting emissions is necessary to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

“I don’t think that we have time to sit back and see if our efforts to this date have been sufficient,” he said.

Later, Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, questioned whether there is enough funding for agencies like the New Mexico Environment Department and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to implement the Clean Future Act.

“If we’re going to embark on it, we’re going to have to provide the resources for that as well,” he said.