By Demis Foster and Brian Condit | Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican
Earlier this year, labor unions, environmental advocates, the Navajo Nation, community organizations, businesses and utilities came together to support the Energy Transition Act before the New Mexico Legislature. With the sponsorship of Sens. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, the ETA passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The ETA realized the dreams of thousands of New Mexicans who want more wind and solar power and real financial assistance for the families of San Juan County, where the San Juan Generating Station will soon close its coal facilities. After over a year of negotiations with one of the most diverse set of stakeholders the Legislature has seen, we found agreement with one another, resulting in the bill’s bipartisan success.
But now, the Public Regulation Commission is threatening to undo this good work. Led by Commissioner Valerie Espinoza, the PRC recently voted to exclude the Energy Transition Act from applying to the PRC’s decision on the San Juan Generating Station closure later this year. The PRC has tabled a move to reconsider that decision and now wants PNM to agree to abandon the law’s time frame.
It is as if the commissioners want to pretend the ETA never existed, despite all the incredible hard work that went into crafting and passing this nation-leading bill. Only one commissioner did the right thing and voted to include the ETA in deliberations — Commissioner Steve Fischmann from Las Cruces. (A second commissioner, Cynthia B. Hall, opposed delaying reconsidering the original decision as well.)
There is a lot at stake. First and foremost, the ETA carved out $40 million for San Juan coal miners, San Juan plant maintenance and operations personnel, and their families, as well as for economic development for the region. These are critical priorities, so the families who worked so hard to create energy for the state have the opportunity to succeed after the coal plant shuts down.
Second, the ETA created one of the strongest clean energy mandates in the country, catapulting New Mexico into a national leader in wind and solar energy. We have abundant natural resources, and we now finally have the chance to use them for the benefit of families, workers and businesses here.
Third, the ETA created a predictable business environment for local and national renewable energy companies to set up shop in our state. That means billions of dollars of investment in New Mexico, monies that can be used to fix roads, fund schools, provide health care and keep neighborhoods safe.
The PRC has put all these benefits at risk. We urge them to reconsider their vote and ensure that the ETA applies to the commission’s deliberations moving forward. The Energy Transition Act is the law, and it represents enormous opportunities for New Mexico’s families and our environment.
Brian Condit served as chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Richardson and now represents the New Mexico Building & Construction Trades Council. Demis Foster is executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico. This op-ed was also signed by Environment New Mexico, Moms Clean Air Force, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, ProgressNow New Mexico, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Southwest Native Cultures, Vote Solar and Western Resource Advocates.