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?
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The surge of oil and gas drilling in New Mexico in the past 18 months also has led to a surge of influence spending in the race for the next Commissioner of Public Lands. Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard, Republican Pat Lyons and Libertarian Michael Lucero all want the job, but Chevron Corp. has poured $2 million into the race to support Lyons, primarily through television ads. Lilliana Castillo, communications director for Conservation Voters New Mexico, said the state deserves a commissioner who will hold oil and gas companies accountable and protect New Mexico’s air, land and water. “In New Mexico, in particular, we have more acres of state trust land than any other state in the country,” she said, “so that makes the commissioner of public lands the most powerful land manager in the West.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Department of Health says 47,000 children in the state suffer from asthma, and that’s why a coalition wants funds from the Volkswagen emissions-test settlement spent to transition diesel school buses to electric. A group will rally in Albuquerque Thursday to lobby for the $18 million owed to New Mexico by Volkswagen after the auto company was found cheating on federal emission laws. Liliana Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund, says the unexpected windfall should be used to phase out dirty diesel school buses for clean, electric buses. “In New Mexico, there are approximately 166,000 kids who ride school buses to over 89 school districts, which serve over 300,000 students, over half of whom are children of color,” she points out. “That explains, that’s part of why there are more than 1 in 11 children in New Mexico who suffer from asthma.”
A Secretary of State candidate is accusing her opponent of an ethics violation for campaign contributions in 2014 from PACs unconnected to the campaign. Nora Espinoza, the Republican candidate, says that Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Democrat, violated ethics rules when a donation from Verde Voters PAC paid money to another PAC, SOS for Democracy, earmarked for “TV ad buy–Maggie Toulouse Oliver.”
Both PACs are unconnected to the Toulouse Oliver campaign. The PAC-to-PAC donation happened during Toulouse Oliver’s first unsuccessful run for Secretary of State. Zach Cook, an attorney and state representative representing Espinoza’s campaign, wrote a complaint to the Secretary of State saying that state law says the PAC money transfer should be considered an in-kind donation to Toulouse Oliver’s campaign. Viki Harrison, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico which advocates for campaign finance and ethics laws, said that this argument “just doesn’t make any sense.”
“The enforcement would be a nightmare because compliance would be impossible,” she said.
A conservation group that makes endorsements each election cycle says one candidate is claiming an endorsement she did not receive. Conservation Voters New Mexico and the related Conservation Voters New Mexico Action Fund did not make an endorsement in the Democratic primary in House District 21—however, the group did deem two candidates “conservation qualified.” When the group finds two candidates are qualified in a certain race, it does not endorse. This is new, an email from CVNM’s Liliana Castillo said. “Historically, CVNM has simply not endorsed in those races.
Gov. Susana Martinez rejected a bill that would extend the Solar Market Development Tax Credit in the state—and supporters aren’t sure why. Martinez pocket vetoed the legislation, which means she did not sign the legislation before the deadline on action for bills passed in the final days of the legislative session. Unlike a regular veto, the 18 pieces of legislation that Martinez pocket vetoed do not come with an executive message that says why Martinez did not agree with the legislation. Groups that supported the solar tax credit extension do not know why the bill was pocket vetoed. “We’ve been asking and we haven’t heard a reason,” Sanders Moore, state director of Environment New Mexico, told New Mexico Political Report.