SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tuesday, February 21, legislators are set to consider bills that could have big impacts on New Mexico’s push towards a cleaner environment. Among the bills up for debate are a bill to adjust the calculations for renewable energy standards and a bill to prohibit single-use plastic bags.

Renewable energy standards

New Mexico has set renewable energy standards for utility companies to meet. For example, by 2030, at least half of all retail energy sales by investor-owned utilities must be from renewable energy, according to the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department. And legislators are set to debate a bill that would change how utility companies calculate their compliance.

Senate Bill 326, sponsored by Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D-Doña Ana), would allow utilities to count excess renewable energy created by customers towards the company’s renewable goal.

Here’s a simple example provided in an analysis of the bill: If a utility sells 75 MW of electricity that is non-renewable and 25 MW that is renewable, and a customer also generates an extra 5 MW of renewable energy that goes back to the grid, then the legislation allows the company to claim that 30% of their power generation is renewable. Without the bill, they can only claim 26.32% (i.e. 25/(100-5)).

The bill could help companies reach their standards more easily. But “the practical problem of securing [a] reliable and consistent renewable energy supply for the good of the entire grid may not be improved” under the bill, according to the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Plastic bags

Legislators are also set to consider a bill to cut down on plastic waste in the state. House Bill 432, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Abq.) and Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces & Hatch), would prohibit single-use plastic checkout bags.

The bill would allow for some exceptions. For example, bags used for laundry and bags to package loose hardware, like nuts and bolts, would be among the exempt types. The bill would also allow local municipalities to set penalties for violating the ban.

Already, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, and Silver City have tried some form of plastic bag prohibitions. In Albuquerque, the ban was set in 2020, was suspended for most of the pandemic, and then repealed in 2022.

The bill to set a statewide ban on plastic bags received a fair bit of support in an earlier committee hearing. Some legislators did express concern that a ban could burden businesses. Supporters pointed out that the bill could help keep countless bags from ending up as trash in New Mexico’s environment.

In case you missed it: Harm reduction

On Monday, Legislators debated a bill to help New Mexicans who are addicted to drugs. House Bill 263, sponsored by Rep. Tara L. Lujan (D-Santa Fe) and Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Abq.), would expand on the existing Harm Reduction Act, which aims to cut down on overdoses. The bill aims to create safe, supervised spaces where those struggling with addiction can receive help as well as use substances.

“It is the intent of House Bill 263 to prevent fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses, provide a pathway to substance use disorder treatment for those who desire it, improve access to medical and social services, prevent the transmission of infectious disease, reduce public use of controlled substances, and reduce emergency room use and hospital utilization related to drug use,” Rep. Lujan said.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted to move the idea forward. The three Republicans on the committee voted against the bill, but next it’s headed to the House Judiciary Committee. For more on the debate, check out this KRQE News 13 story.