CVNM Releases 2017-2018 Conservation Scorecard
**Full Scorecard Available Online**
SANTA FE, N.M. – Today, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM), the leading environmental advocacy organization in New Mexico, released the statewide Conservation Scorecard for the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. In the Scorecard, CVNM reports the votes cast by legislators on the most critical issues affecting our air, land and water during the 53rd Legislature. The Scorecard includes an executive summary, Scorecard data in a collection of easy to read charts displaying trends over the past decade, behind-the-scenes stories and issue spotlights. An audio recording of a media telebriefing hosted earlier today is available below.
The average conservation score earned in the Senate in the 2017-2018 Scorecard is 76%, an increase from 68% in 2017. The average conservation score earned in the House of Representatives in the 2017-2018 Scorecard is 70%, an increase from 67% in 2017. The overall conservation performance of both chambers increased, thanks in part to the strong pro-conservation leadership from Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth and Speaker Brian Egolf.
Because the legislature as a whole is performing better on issues affecting our air, land and water, the environmental community has shifted to a more proactive policy agenda, supporting legislators to introduce important policies such as increasing the Renewable Energy Standard (SB 312, 2017), creating a Community Solar program (SB 338, 2017), re-establishing the Solar Tax Credit (HB 61/HB 82/SB 41, 2017; SB 79, 2018) and Assurance for Plugging Oil & Gas Wells (SB 189, 2018).
“Pollution of our air, land and water is something that affects every New Mexican,” says Ben Shelton, CVNM Political Director. “CVNM connects people to their political power to protect our environment and the Scorecard is a key way to directly connect them to the issues that matter.”
The 2017-2018 Scorecard includes votes on 36 Senate and 34 House pieces of legislation on critical issues that New Mexico’s decision-makers faced in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. This legislation touched on a wide variety of important environmental and conservation topics including a nation-leading Renewable Energy Standard, banning coyote killing contests, efforts to close the San Juan Generating Station and support the community during that transition and proposals to fund shovel-ready water projects in southwest New Mexico that were alternatives to a Gila River diversion.
Some highlights and lowlights:
- Securitization: Generally, short budget sessions like the one in 2018 require less of the environmental community’s attention that a regular session. That wasn’t the case this year once the San Juan Coal Plan bill (SB 47, 2018), backed by PNM, was introduced. The bill deals with a financial tool called “securitization” that makes it easier for utilities to close aging coal plants early by allowing them to recover a percentage of what they expected to make during the life of the plant. Providing this incentive is important because it guarantees that the utility will commit to closing the plant, rather than seeking buyers to keep the plant up and running. CVNM and ally organizations were at the table to ensure the proposal benefitted the Four Corners region and ratepayers overall. The negotiations led to recognition among leading environmental and community groups and PNM that the families and economies of the Four Corners area must be protected; that PNM should deliver 50% of its energy from clean renewable sources by 2030; and that New Mexico is ready to move into new clean energy jobs and away from coal. That’s significant progress and we’re going to make sure we capitalize on that by continuing to work with lawmakers, Farmington stakeholders and PNM so that we can move the economies of New Mexico and the Four Corners area forward in the 2019 legislative session.Overall, it is cheaper for ratepayers to securitize a portion of PNM’s lost revenue from the old, expensive coal plant and build clean, cheap energy to replace it than it is for PNM to continue to operate the nation’s most polluting coal plant. When you factor in the environmental and public health costs, it benefits the state even more.Las Cruces Senators Joseph Cervantes and Bill Soules played key roles in the debate of the PNM bill in the Conservation Committee. As committee chair, Senator Cervantes moved the hearing on the bill to a Saturday in the Senate chambers to try to ensure as many people as possible were able to participate in the debate. Both Cervantes and Soules stressed that pushing such a complicated piece of legislation quickly through a short session wasn’t the appropriate way to tackle a problem with long-term ramifications. Both committed to continuing the conversation and having a more in-depth, thorough process to come to agreement on how to transition the Four Corners region from the dirty, coal-fired San Juan Generating Station.
- Privatization: In 2017, Rep. Larry Larrañaga introduced Public-Private Partnerships (HB 275, 2017) which proposed to privatize critical public services. New Mexicans again (a similar bill was defeated in 2015) stood up against attempts to privatize our water and other critical public services. When something seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is the warning our legislators took to heart when they voted down HB 275 7-4 in the House Labor and Economic Development Committee. Our financial and jobs crisis is real and impacting New Mexicans deeply – but privatizing our water should never be an option. New Mexicans will pay the true long term costs when critical services are privatized through higher costs, lower quality and expensive legal battles. We thank the legislators who voted against the Public-Private Partnerships Act.
- Gila River protection: Flowing out of America’s first Wilderness Area, the Gila River is New Mexico’s last undammed stretch of river. Efforts are underway to change that and build an unnecessary diversion dam to benefit a few irrigators at great taxpayer expense. Representatives Rudy Martinez and Bill McCamley and Senator Howie Morales sponsored legislation, NM Unit Fund Water Projects (HB 127/SB 72, 2018) that would have made appropriations from the New Mexico Unit Fund to the Interstate Stream Commission for shovel-ready water projects in southwest New Mexico that are alternatives to a Gila River diversion, including: $12 million for bulk water supplies to Hurley, Bayard, Santa Clara and Silver City; $34 million for water supply projects in the southwest New Mexico regional water planning area; $3.5 million to contract for collection of new ground water and geologic data; and $500,000 to evaluate and plan alternatives for the city of Deming for a remote well field. Unfortunately, both the House and Senate bills died in committee. We truly appreciate the continued leadership of these legislators to protect a wild Gila River while providing for important water needs of communities in southwestern New Mexico.
- Uranium legacy clean-up: Western New Mexico legislators Representative Wonda Johnson and Senator John Pinto led the effort to appropriate $250,000 in the state budget to study the education and training programs necessary to build a workforce to meet the demand for uranium site clean-up (HB 208/SB 251, Study Workforce Training & Education.) With legacy uranium mining sites scattered throughout the Grants Mining district continuing to pollute communities’ air, land and health, this funding is a critical step in moving toward clean-up. While $200,000 was included in the final budget, it was line-item vetoed by Governor Susana Martinez.
- Community champ: Patricia Roybal Caballero continues to stand out for her willingness to sponsor important community-led measures. She co-sponsored a memorial (HJM 6, 2018) which asked the legislature to support utilizing New Mexico’s $18 million Volkswagen cheating scandal settlement funds to begin to transition the state’s school bus fleet to electric buses. In 2017, she sponsored a Community Solar measure (HB 338, 2017) which would have made clean energy like solar more accessible to more New Mexican families. The Community Solar bill failed on the House floor when four legislators walked out rather than vote on the measure. We applaud Rep. Roybal Caballero for continuing to be a champion for her community and putting her all into getting it right.
- Bipartisanship: We would like to highlight Sen. Sander Rue who earned a 94%, nearly 20 points higher than any other Republican legislator in the Albuquerque area. Sen. Rue puts the issues his constituents care about above party politics, supporting bills promoting clean energy like solar and wind and open, transparent government. We applaud him for his work. In recent sessions, Sen. Rue has co-sponsored measures to fund alternatives to a Gila River diversion (SB 172, 2017), bring transparency to the capital outlay process (SB 54, 2018) and has consistently voted in support of measures to expand access and use of clean energy. In addition, Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, another Republican legislator, co-sponsored legislation in 2016 (HB 26) and 2017 (HB 61/HB 82) to reinstate New Mexico’s solar tax credit. We know that New Mexicans across the political spectrum care about having clean air for our children to breathe, drinkable water and clean energy like solar and wind and we look forward to working with more legislators to advance these critical issues.
Our 2017-2018 Scorecard offers insight into the records of each of our state legislators. In addition, you will find detailed descriptions of each piece of legislation CVNM scored along with the pro-conservation vote (yay or nay.) Please review the detailed Scorecard for additional reporting opportunities.
CVNM Political and Legislative Director Ben Shelton is available to discuss the 2017-2018 Scorecard in more depth and answer any questions you may have about legislation or the process by which the scores are calculated.
Below, audio from the 2017-2018 Conservation Scorecard Media Telebriefing is available for use:
CVNM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization connecting the people of New Mexico to their political power to protect our air, land, and water for a healthy Land of Enchantment. CVNM does this by mobilizing voters, helping candidates win elections, holding elected officials accountable, and advancing responsible public policies.