CDC was late to alert state about Socorro couple who tested positive for COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was late, according to one of New Mexico’s members of Congress, in notifying the state about a Socorro couple who returned to New Mexico from an Egypt cruise where COVID-19, a disease caused by a coronavirus, was known to be present. The couple later tested positive for the virus. U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland spoke about the issue during a recent House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on the coronavirus. Haaland said the CDC waited 10 days before alerting the state about the couple. “Nobody notified the state or the health department about them being on a cruise ship where coronavirus was found.

Natural gas will play a big role in state’s energy transition

We are one year into the Energy Transition Act, and utilities across the state are now charting their courses towards carbon-free generation. The goal is to meet demand for electricity with 100 percent “zero-carbon” sources by 2045 for investor-owned utilities and 2050 for electric cooperatives. Renewable energy is now cost-competitive with other sources of power generation like coal and nuclear; and investments in renewable energy projects have steadily grown in New Mexico, which is rich in both wind and sun. But renewables don’t produce energy as reliably as coal, and utilities say that poses a big problem for delivering electricity to customers when the wind isn’t blowing, or the sun isn’t shining. So, they’ve turned to natural gas to supplement power needs while bringing more renewables online, touting it as a crucial stepping stone in the transition to renewables.

Guv signs solar tax credit, clean energy bills into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a slate of bills into law Tuesday afternoon aimed at expanding renewable energy and modernizing the state’s electricity infrastructure, including a bill that reinstates the solar tax credit that expired under the previous administration. SB 29, sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque and Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, reinstates the solar tax credit that expired in 2016. The bill creates a personal income tax credit to cover 10 percent of the costs of a solar thermal or solar photovoltaic system for residential, business or agriculture applications. The new law is applicable to tax years starting on January 1, 2020. The tax credit will help more New Mexico families and small businesses “invest in solar, and will boost our statewide effort to move toward the goal of having a 50 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2030,” Stewart said.

Amid groundwater declines, water data gains importance

The Ogallala aquifer is rapidly declining. The large underground reservoir stretches from Wyoming and the Dakotas to New Mexico, with segments crossing key farmland in Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. It serves as the main water source for what’s known as the breadbasket of America — an area that contributes at least a fifth of the total annual agricultural harvest in the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey began warning about the aquifer’s depletion in the 1960s, though the severity of the issue seems to have only recently hit the mainstream. Farmers in places like Kansas are now grappling with the reality of dried up wells.

The clean energy bills that cleared the legislature

The 2020 Legislative session finished promptly at noon on Thursday after a week of long nights in debate that resulted in the passage of the number of clean energy bills backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. However, not every priority passed the legislature this year. Here’s a look at the clean energy bills that made it to the governor’s desk this year, and the ones that didn’t. Solar tax credit: Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, often joked about how many times she sponsored a bill to reinstate the solar tax credit since the credit expired in 2016. “I hate to count how many times the committee’s actually heard [this bill],” Stewart joked with a House committee during the session.

Senate sends EV tax credit back to House

The Senate passed a second bill that would create a tax credit for electric vehicles late Wednesday evening, after passing a similar Senate bill one day earlier. On Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 2, sponsored by Pat Woods, R-Broadview, and Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, by a narrow vote of 19-18. The Senate then passed HB 217, sponsored by Mesilla Democratic Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena and Santa Fe Democratic Rep. Jim Trujillo, by a vote of 23-13, late Wednesday night. RELATED: Senate version of electric vehicle tax credit passes floor by one vote

“This bill is almost a mirror bill to SB 2,” Woods said. “The only difference between this bill and the electric vehicle income tax credit bill that I passed earlier was that this bill requires you to be a resident of the state of New Mexico before you receive a tax credit.”

“This bill was amended in Senate Finance [Committee] to mirror my bill,” Woods added.

Solar tax credit heads to Guv’s desk

A bill to reinstate a solar tax credit is headed to the governor’s desk. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, passed the House floor Wednesday by a vote of 51-19. SB 29 would create a personal income tax credit to cover 10 percent of the costs of a solar thermal or solar photovoltaic system for residential, business or agriculture applications. Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo is the House sponsor of the bill. 

New Mexico initiated a similar tax credit in the last decade, which expired in 2016. The Legislature passed a bill to reinstate the credit that same year, but it was pocket-vetoed by then-Gov. Susana Martinez.

PRC reform bill dies in Senate committee

A proposal to restructure the Public Regulation Commission died in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee after a two-plus hour debate. The bill was tabled by a vote of 5-4. Democratic Reps. Nathan Small of Las Cruces and Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe presented HB 11 to the committee Tuesday afternoon. Small and Trujillo told the committee the bill would help address staffing issues at the PRC and make the commission more efficient.

Senate version of electric vehicle tax credit passes floor by one vote

A Senate proposal to create an electric vehicle tax credit passed the Senate floor Tuesday by just one vote. SB 2, sponsored by Sens. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, and Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, would create personal income tax credits for New Mexico residents who purchase or lease plug-in hybrid vehicles or 100 percent battery electric vehicles. The bill provides a $2,500 tax credit for residents whose annual income is above $50,000; but the tax credit jumps to $5,000 for residents who make less than $50,000. “We’re talking really about taxing the poor,” said Albuquerque Republican Sen. Mark Moores during the debate.

Transmission line expansion bill passes Senate without opposition

A bill aimed at expanding powerline infrastructure in the state easily passed the Senate floor unanimously on Tuesday after a short debate. HB 50 would make transmission line projects eligible for Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) issued by counties and municipalities. Republican Sen. Steven Neville of Farmington presented the bill on the floor Tuesday. “This is an amendment to the Industrial Revenue Bond procedure and acts that we have in our statute that allows private powerlines, primarily related to renewable energy projects, to allow them to participate in the IRB process,” Neville said. “It’s not for PNM or any of the public utilities.