SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Addressing climate change is by no means a new idea inside the Roundhouse. But this year, the push for New Mexico to take bigger strides on the topic have been palpable.
Over the last few weeks, legislators have debated setting up long-term conservation funds, water misuse legislation, and even a bill to help fund oil well cleanup. Now, the climate change zeitgeist seems to have reached a peak with debate over a statewide climate bill.
Tuesday, March 7, legislators in the Senate Conservation Committee debated Senate Bill 520. The bill would require the state to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades.
Ultimately, the goal would be to get down to only one tenth of the 2005 emissions by the year 2050. The bill would also require all future legislation and state rules to include reduced environmental and health impacts. And much of the bill comes from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s previous executive order on climate change.
“For the last year, almost, groups of people have been working with the Governor’s Office to try to codify her original executive order about climate in New Mexico. That process kind of stopped a few months ago when people could not agree,” Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Abq.) told the committee. Senate Bill 520 is a pared-down version of those negotiations, Stewart says.
“It sets an essential framework for our continued climate action,” Stewart said. “This bill is necessary to ensure the [emissions] reduction targets are a priority across administrations.”
In other words, the bill would ensure that New Mexico more or less remains on the path laid out by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. But lawmakers were divided on how to set rules around New Mexico’s future.
Sen. David M. Gallegos (R-Eddy & Lea) expressed concern that too much regulation might actually be worse for the climate. His logic is that if there’s too much regulation, businesses may simply go somewhere else, such as Texas, and produce more emissions. Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Doña Ana), on the other hand, argued that this legislation opens the door for New Mexico to reach its climate goals.
Story continues below:
- Albuquerque: Albuquerque neighbors fed up with drivers crashing into wall repeatedly
- New Mexico: Taos family frustrated with lack of progress on safety measures on Taos Gorge Bridge
- Environment: Will New Mexico see a ‘sizzling’ spring and summer?
- Crime: Warrant out for woman accused of damaging 40 vehicles in downtown Albuquerque
Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana) pointed out that while it’s all well and good to have goals for the state, the bill doesn’t say much about what happens if New Mexico doesn’t reach its climate goals. And he pointed to previous legislation, the Energy Transition Act, as another example of legislation he feels has minimal repercussions for the state if the goals aren’t met.
Stewart agreed that there isn’t a ton accountability for the state’s emissions in Senate Bill 520. But “this is a first step,” she said. And Stewart blamed the difficulty in setting accountability on the fact that stakeholders across New Mexico can’t come to agreement over climate change legislation.
There is a wide range of supporters and opposition over climate legislation, she explained. For example, “you’ve got groups that are environmental groups that are against the bill because we’re not funding the Environment Department,” she explained. “Just imagine putting all those people in one room and coming up with an accountability.”
Cervantes also took issue with the lack of specificity in the bill. “This bill says that by law, we should reduce health and environmental impacts,” Cervantes said. “Of course we should reduce health impacts. Of course we should reduce environmental impacts. How much? How little? When? How? Who? . . . completely unknown.”
After the discussion, the committee voted to decide whether or not the climate bill should move forward. Four of the committee members voted to move the bill forward, four voted to stall the bill. So, ultimately the legislation didn’t move forward.
Although it’s just one climate bill among several that legislators have debated over the last few weeks, the stagnation of Senate Bill 520 does seem to reflect the general impasse or deadlock around climate legislation in the state. Sen. Hamblen described it like trying to move across a crowded room.
“When we’re working on environmental policy,” Hamblen said, it’s like “trying to get from one side of a room to the other when you’re in a rave.”
“You’ve got all the disco lights and you’re trying to get to the other side, and it’s like really challenging. And you feel like you’re walking through mud,” Hamblen explained. “This is what I see, kind of what this movement is in terms of environmental policy.”
Sen. Gregg Schmedes (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe & Torrance) described New Mexico’s attempt to grapple with strict climate legislation differently. Here in New Mexico, Schmedes argued, it seems like lawmakers intentionally make non-authoritative law “that way they can allow, kind of, whims, feelings, fads to rule,” he says. “And that’s a problem.”