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NM Legislators to Consider 100-Percent Carbon-Free Energy Bill

New Mexico lawmakers soon will consider a bill to supercharge New Mexico's renewable-energy goals.  (skeeze/Pixabay)
New Mexico lawmakers soon will consider a bill to supercharge New Mexico's renewable-energy goals. (skeeze/Pixabay)
February 8, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. - Legislation aiming for a New Mexico future that is 100 percent carbon-free was introduced Thursday in the state Senate.

The Energy Transition Bill, SB 489, sets an interim milestone of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, 80 percent by 2040 and a 100 percent carbon-free milestone by 2045. Buoyed by last November's election that turned all three of the state's legislative branches Democratic, environmental groups are determined to ramp up clean-energy efforts.

Ben Shelton, political and legislative director for Conservation Voters New Mexico, said the Land of Enchantment is in transition from relying on coal and the boom-and-bust cycles of oil and gas.

"We are, right now, kind of at an inflection point, where a lot of our old electricity-generation fleet is aging out," he said. "What is going to replace this coal that has been keeping the lights on in this state for years but cannot continue to do so as climate change continues to arrive in New Mexico?"

The states of Washington and Minnesota also have introduced 100 percent carbon-free bills this year. If the Energy Transition Act is passed, New Mexico would join California, Hawaii and other states and cities that have committed to similar goals.

Residents of northwest New Mexico, home of the 40-year-old San Juan Generating Station, have been bracing for a severe economic impact when the coal plant closes in 2022. To address that, the bill would provide up to $30 million toward plant decommissioning and mine reclamation, and $20 million for worker severance and retraining.

Shelton said the legislation aims to diversify that region's economy, while getting new Mexico on track to deal with climate change.

"People want a lot more renewables in this state," he said, "and they want to see that industry continue to sort of be a backbone here, or grow into a backbone industry."

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order last month calling for a 45-percent reduction in greenhouse gases statewide by 2030.

At deadline, SB 489 was not yet posted on the New Mexico Legislature's website.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM