Conservation Community Rallies Behind Solar Tax Credit

With the 2016 legislative session focused on the state budget, the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico (EANM) – a coalition of conservation, social justice, and public health organizations representing over 60,000 New Mexicans, convened by Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNMEF) – geared up for a tough 30 days to create a path- way for the common agenda – a slate of priorities that the conservation community supports collectively. This year, the coalition rallied behind a pro-active policy to ex- tend the solar energy tax credit – a tax incentive that increases the accessibility and affordability of rooftop solar systems. W ithout legislative action, this tax credit will sunset in December of 2016.

EANM also supported this legislation in New Mexico’s 2015 legislative session, when it passed both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support and made it to Governor Martinez’s desk. The Governor ultimately ignored the bill, called a pocket veto, allowing it to die.

Although there was support for the bill, midway through the session, legislative leadership announced that New Mexico was experiencing a crippling budget shortfall. As a result, most legislation, including the solar tax credit, came to a halt. But our work doesn’t stop there. The conservation community will continue to bring this legislation forward in future sessions to extend the tax credit. Our energy future depends on it.

Elevating Community Voices in the Policy-Making Process

With budget sessions only lasting 30 days, it can be immensely challenging for families and activists to participate in the policy-making process. That’s because many of the policies that are discussed during the session often directly impact people that live in rural or remote parts of the state. For rural families, it can also be expensive and time consuming to travel to Santa Fe to share their stories and speak up for their communities.

This past session, one of the policies considered by decision- makers was a bill to create a uranium legacy clean-up fund through imposing a fee on new mining operations (HB 293). Many community members oppose this strategy because it ties cleanup of old mining sites to produc- tion from new mines – forcing communities to be exposed to the dangers of new mining operations in order to clean up existing waste.

To support impacted people in sharing their stories and perspectives with decision- makers, EANM provided travel scholarships to impacted community members from the Navajo Nation and northwest- ern New Mexico. This support helped 20 individuals travel 12 hours round-trip from western New Mexico to Santa Fe. They spoke directly with the sponsors of the bill who, after hearing first-hand how the bill would negatively impact them, agreed to not move the bill forward.

In the coming weeks, the Environmental Alliance will be meeting to plan out next steps for its work moving into the 2017 session, including how to continue creating space for community members to share their stories.

For more information about the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico, or to get involved, please visit our website at www.CVNMEF.org .

By Molly Sanders, Program Director