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August 19, 2010

SANTA FE, N.M. - A few national figures will be among those wrapping up testimony this week as hearings on a proposal to cap and begin reducing the state's greenhouse emissions draw to a close in Santa Fe. One is Winona LaDuke, director of Honor the Earth, Native American activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer, who twice ran as Ralph Nader's vice presidential candidate for the Green Party. She told the state Environmental Improvement Board Wednesday afternoon the plan is an opportunity for New Mexico to lead as climate change and governments' response to it become more urgent.

"You could either be in the back seat of the bus and letting everybody drive the choices, or you could make the choices ahead of time and ensure that you have a strong economy."

LaDuke believes fossil fuels are growing less plentiful, and that the potential for renewable energy sources like wind and solar is just barely being tapped. The proposal, filed by the group New Energy Economy, would aim to cut climate change emissions in New Mexico by 25 percent from their 1990 levels by 2020.

Rick Sprott, former director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, spent years working with climate and air quality regulations. He'll be testifying that the plan being heard this week is a good one because it's simple and not too broad.

"It doesn't go after every little source of carbon dioxide or methane or other greenhouse gas in the state. It focuses only on the really important sources of greenhouse gases - only two sectors really."

While the plan would deal with about 50 potential sources, according to Sprott, it would primarily be concerned with reducing emissions from oil and gas production and coal-powered electricity plants in the state.

Energy industry representatives testified that the plan would raise energy costs, but Sprott says those claims are exagerated.

"Will there be a cost to ratepayers for electricity? Yes, something. But, it's not going to be anything as much as some of the opposition suggests."

New Energy Economy says any increases would likely be less than one percent. The hearings run through Friday at the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) Building in Santa Fe. The petition is at www.newenergyeconomy.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM