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New Mexico to push carbon-free generation

Mar 14, 2019 |

Climate change legislation isn’t something being considered this year in the Oklahoma House and Senate but it is in New Mexico where the House approved complex measures pushing the state to a carbon-free energy generation in the next 25 years.

The bill was sent this week to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishman. Senate Bill 489 would authorize the use of bonds for Public Service Company of New Mexico to pay for costs connected with the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant in the Four Corners area.

It would also phase in requirements for PNM and other public utilities to shift to carbon-free energy generation by 2045. They would have to derive 50 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040 according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The bill passed 43-22. It won approval in the Senate last week and now heads to Lujan Grisham, who has pushed for its passage.

Rep. Nathan Small, a Las Cruces Democrat and co-sponsor, said the measure would provide help to Four Corners communities affected by the closure of the power plant and allow the state to harness its potential for renewable energy. Closure of the plant, he said, is the result of market forces, not state action.

“New Mexico stands at a moment of energy transition,” he said.

Opponents of the bill argued that it would help PNM more than coal miners or other workers. They questioned the feasibility of moving to carbon-free electricity and sought more time to find a deal to save the power plant.

Lujan Grisham praised the legislation in a statement after the vote.

“The Energy Transition Act is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans,” she said. “When we were presented the chance to move toward cleaner sources of energy, we took it, boldly charting a course to a carbon-free future, permanently centering our commitment to lower emissions and setting an example for other states.”

She added that the bill “does not leave our neighbors in San Juan County behind, as we will provide millions for trainings and economic development.”

A mix of business and environmental groups have pushed for passage of the bill.

Coal miners and others have turned out to speak against it.

Mariel Nanasi of New Energy Economy, a Santa Fe-based group, said the legislation essentially traded an increase in renewable energy standards for a gutting of regulatory authority by the Public Regulation Commission and giveaways to PNM.

“We don’t think the trade was worth it,” she said.

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