Methane actions front and center at State Legislature

Today at the Roundhouse, lawmakers, environmental experts, and a local ranchers held a press conference on the Obama-era methane rule and Gov. Susana Martinez’s efforts to roll back the rule in New Mexico.Watch the event from our Facebook Live feed:

Speakers included:

Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe)
Sen. Benny Shendo Jr. (D-Jemez Pueblo)
Rep. Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque)
along with Jon Goldstein of the Environmental Defense Fund,
Don Schreiber, a Rio Arriba County rancher and gas lease land holder
and Patrick von Bargen of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions. Following the press conference, a crowd of concerned citizens – including members of Conservation Voters NM, The Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter and ProgressNowNM – marched up to the fourth floor and hand-delivered petitions to the Governor’s office to tell her that New Mexico needs the methane rule, and ProgressNow New Mexico was there to capture all of the action. The methane rule is a regulation implemented by the Bureau of Land Management that requires oil and natural gas producers to fix leaks and update equipment to prevent methane from flaring into the atmosphere. Read more: What is the Methane Rule? Last month, however, Gov. Martinez wrote a letter to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan to urge Congress to repeal the rule.

House Republicans Stop Solar Tax Credits, Jobs in Committee

From KRWG, Las Cruces: 

 House Republicans Wednesday voted against House Bill 193 in the House Business and Industry committee along a partisan 5-5 vote. HB 193 would have made permanent and expanded New Mexico’s investment in solar energy, creating jobs and diversifying the state’s economy at a time when its over reliance on oil and gas has left us in a deep financial crisis.  Sponsored by Representative Daymon Ely (D-Corrales), HB 193 made permanent the Solar Market Development Tax Credits as well as offering them to both private individuals, low income families as well as commercial businesses. “Never has our state had such a huge need to diversify its economy and to create jobs in industries that are immune to cuts in the federal budget or swings in the price of oil and natural gas,” said Representative Ely. “At a time when New Mexicans are wondering why we aren’t the solar capital of the world, it is really disappointing to see my colleagues across the aisle fail to recognize the job creating potential of solar energy.”

House Bill 193 would have increased the solar tax credit from 10% to 15% of the cost of purchase and installation for families making less than $43,871 per year. The new “solar market development corporate income tax credit” would’ve allowed businesses to claim 10% of the purchase and installation cost of a solar energy system. Currently, there are 96 solar companies who call New Mexico home that employs around 2,000 individuals.

Heinrich votes against giving Rick Perry nuclear weapons

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing Rick Perry’s past calls to eliminate the Energy Department, and “an unwillingness to commit to the applied energy research and climate science done at our national labs and universities, and the transition team questionnaire that attacked the integrity of climate scientists,” US Senator Martin Heinrich voted NO today on the confirmation of former Texas Governor Rick Perry to lead Donald Trump’s Energy Department. The New York Times recently reported that Perry accepted Trump’s offer to be Energy Secretary believing it was a post to serve as a “global ambassador for America’s oil and gas companies.”  Only after accepting did he learn that it was not that job at all. The Energy Department enjoys a special relationship with New Mexico. National labs, including Sandia and Los Alamos, as well as our country’s nuclear stockpile housed, in part, at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque are all under the purview of the Energy Secretary.

State, local leaders issue public letter to US Senate opposing Trump’s Pruitt for EPA

More than 50 state and local elected officials signed an open letter to New Mexico’s US Senators and Congressional delegation urging them to publicly oppose President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Scroll down to join these leaders in opposing Pruitt for EPA administrator. As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA at least 14 times to oppose clean air and water rules.  Mr. Pruitt also allowed Republican donors and oil industry executives to write his office’s climate change policies and official policy statement letters opposing climate change and EPA rules. The full Senate is expected to take up his nomination in the coming weeks.

New: Gov’s new energy secretary is an oil executive. His company is one of her top donors.

Governor Martinez has appointed a former oil and gas company executive and top donor to her campaigns, PACs and Republican causes as the State’s new secretary of energy, minerals and natural resources department. Ken McQueen is the former Vice-President of WPX energy’s San Juan-area operations for the Oklahoma-based fossil fuel company, according to his LinkedIn profile. Public campaign finance records show that Martinez and WPX have a close relationship.  The company has been one of the most consistent and largest donors to her campaigns, her PACs and campaigns of her legislative allies in Santa Fe. $10,000 to Advance New Mexico NOW PAC, Nov.

Trump’s EPA pick let Republican donors, oil execs draft climate policy

Donald Trump will name Oklahoma’s climate-denying, Big Oil attorney general to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s been an architect of a plan by conservative attorneys generals suing to undo the very agency Trump has now proposed him to lead and public records show that he allowed Republican donors and big oil executives to write climate policies for his office. Way back in 2011, industry lobbyists hailed new New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for introducing new new dairy rules rolling back Gov. Richardson’s environmental protection rules. Those rules protected drinking water and nearby streams from being infected with manure and urine waste from nearby dairies but required environmental protections dairies opposed paying for. Months later, public records requests showed that dairy industry lobbyists who had funded her campaign wrote those rules introduced under Martinez’s name.

VICTORY: Obama administration rejects DAPL pipeline route through sacred sites

Facing an increasingly determined and growing community of protestors and pressure from federal legislators and community groups, the federal Army Corps of Engineers announced late Sunday that it would deny the permit for the last leg of the DAPL, a controversial federal oil pipeline through sacred tribal areas in North Dakota. New Mexicans have made high-profile efforts to join the opposition in recent months.  State Democratic Party Chair Deb Haaland, herself the only Native party chair in the country, traveled there last month. 

Senators Udall and Heinrich also issued letters to President Obama called for the permit denial. 

Heinrich calls on Obama to move Dakota Access Pipeline | NM Political Report
Heinrich concerned over violence against Standing Rock protesters | NM Political Report 
Udall also wants Dakota Access Pipeline moved, denounces violence | NM Political Report

From the New York Times: 

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Ms. Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The administration also signaled its intent to require a full environmental impact report and public input. Both were deemed unnecessary by the applicants but were seen as critical components to future opposition plans. 

Again, The Times:

The consideration of alternative routes “would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis,” Ms Darcy said in a statement.

Thousands in NM immigrant community demand clean energy & green jobs from Gov. Martinez

Last week immigrant community members throughout New Mexico came together and submitted over 2,400 petitions to Gov. Martinez demanding she take action to protect the health and well being of their communities and increase renewable energy output in the state. The petition gathering was organized by Juntos: Our Air Our Water — a project of Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund — which organizes Latino communities to protect air and water and advocate for clean energy. From the Los Alamos Daily Post (emphasis added):
The petition gathering started early September after Juntos had conducted a survey, October 2015 through February 2016, which demonstrated that 89 percent of the surveyed families – mostly from the Latin immigrant community – expressed that their number one concern was the air quality and air pollution levels found in their communities. […]

The petitions recently turned in demand that the Martínez administration implement a strong plan to help our state transition to clean, renewable energy – specifically wind and solar energy – and creates more “green jobs”. Investments in renewable energy are investments in healthy families, and yet the Martinez administration continues to invest in dirty energy, despite its impact on New Mexicans’ air, land, water and health.