NM Environment Review: No-go on solar plus public lands, nuclear waste and more

On Wednesday, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the budget passed earlier this year by state legislators. But she refused to sign a bill that would have reinstated state tax credits for solar. That bill reinstated a tax credit that had expired after a decade, one that had spurred the deployment of 220 million BTUs per day of solar heating energy and 40 megawatts of solar electricity. The tax credit would have given people who install a solar thermal system or photovoltaic system at their home, business or farm a ten percent credit of the purchase and installation costs, up to $9,000. Previously, Martinez has praised the state’s “all of the above” energy resources, but by declining to sign the solar tax credit bill, she effectively vetoed it, but without having to explain why. This week, there’s an interesting water case before the Second District Court, over a private company’s plans to drill for groundwater in the Sandia Mountains.

As Trump delivers blow to solar industry nationally, NM tax credit could ‘zero out’ cost increases

This week, the Trump administration announced it was imposing new tariffs on imported solar panels and modules—a move that will hit installation companies and consumers alike. But in the New Mexico State Legislature a trio of Democratic state representatives wants to give solar development in New Mexico a boost. House Bill 87 would give people who install a solar thermal system or photovoltaic system at their home, business or farm a ten percent credit of the purchase and installation costs, up to $9,000. If passed, the bill would authorize the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to pay out up to $5 million in tax credits for the year. The bill is sponsored by Reps.

Around NM: Program cuts, solar headlines, crumbling Camel Rock and more

Friday, we reported officials with the Village of Santa Clara were breathing a sigh of relief after the state deposited grant money into its bank account. That deposit occurred about a week after the New Mexico Environment Department said it would no longer accept invoices or reimbursement requests for a grant the village used to build a park. Santa Clara had received a grant under the state’s Recycling and Illegal Dumping Fund (RAID) program. The total reimbursement from NMED was $231,000, more than a third of the village’s annual budget. While NMED still hadn’t explained the letter to the press or officials, in a Silver City Daily Press story Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, is quoted saying NMED pulled the grant funding because of cuts in SB 113.

Navajo nation ‘goes green’ with new solar plant

SANTA FE, N.M. – The Navajo Nation is going green by building its first utility-scale solar farm on tribal property. The facility, to be located on 300 acres near Monument Valley, is expected to generate enough power for 7,700 homes in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah after it is completed in late 2016. Deenise Biscenti, public affairs director for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, said building the solar plant is part of a long-term strategy to change the way the tribes deliver power. “For the past several years, NTUA has explored renewable-energy resource possibilities,” she said. “This solar farm is our move into that field, to establish a green economy for the Navajo Nation.”

Study: Fossil fuel groups targeting solar industry

A study by an environmental group says fossil fuel industry interests are aiming at taking down the growing solar energy industry. The local branch of the group says New Mexico has been resistant to these attempts. Environment America released a study on Tuesday looking at the way these groups attempt to head off solar industry. The study placed blame at the feet of organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial conservative group that allows close ties between corporate interests and legislators. While New Mexico is not specifically mentioned in the report, outside of a reference in the footnotes, Environment New Mexico sees this as a local issue.

AG wants study on proposed new fee for solar, wind

Attorney General Hector Balderas has weighed in on a controversial proposal by Public Service Company of New Mexico to impose a fee on those who install solar or wind power on their homes or small businesses. Balderas wants the state Public Regulation Commission to study the impact of distributed generation before any decision is made on the program. PNM wants a fee for those who connect to the electrical grid but also generate their own electricity through solar or wind power, which the company says would be basic fairness. “New Mexico needs an accountable plan that guarantees energy security and affordable clean energy for all New Mexicans, and that’s why I am asking the Public Regulation Commission to initiate this investigation into New Mexico’s utility system,” Attorney General Balderas said in a statement earlier this week. “New Mexicans deserve affordable clean energy in places like Mora and Hidalgo County, not just in Las Cruces and Santa Fe,” he continued.

A look at energy favorability, how New Mexicans consume news

Tom Garrity is well-known in New Mexico. His Garrity PR releases an annual Perception Survey that looks into the perception of voters on a number of issues. New Mexico Political Report will talk to Garrity each week about his firm’s perception survey, highlighting some of the interesting findings. Two of the interesting questions Garrity spoke about this week were on the favorability of two energy industries in the state, one that has been a major player in politics and the state’s economy and the other that is a newcomer and is less established. When it comes to the oil and gas industry, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the industry has a generally favorable view among Republicans while Democrats are less enamored with the industry.