2017-2018 Scorecard Executive Summary
The 2017-2018 legislature represented a new page for conservation issues in the New Mexico legislature. Worries about losing a conservation champion in Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez were allayed by the ascension of conservation champion Senator Peter Wirth to the Majority Leader post. In the House of Representatives, Santa Fe Representative Brian Egolf took over as Speaker of the House. This legislature represented a new high water mark for pro-conservation leadership, and its ability to support the conservation community to both stop anti-conservation bills and advance pro-conservation legislation reflect that.
2017 was a test year for proactive legislation for both CVNM and the environmental movements. With the House led by conservation champion Representative Brian Egolf, proactive conservation legislation was back on the table, with the solar tax credits, community solar, and Renewable Portfolio Standards bills making appearances. While those legislative piece weren’t successful, real progress was made on educating legislators on those issues.
The 2018 legislative session had all the hallmarks of a sleepy short budget session going in. There appeared to be an agreement on the budget, and nobody was particularly eager to take on significant or complex legislation going into an election season. That all changed in mid-December when the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) introduced legislation designed to release them from their investment in the San Juan Generating Station, a large coal-fired power plant outside of Farmington, and potentially retire it earlier.
This legislation put CVNM staff in the middle of the most contentious bill of the legislative session. Traditionally, PNM has been able to leverage huge lobbying resources in the State Capitol to push their priorities through. Their legislative strategy had been to simply out-muscle opponents by surrounding legislators and decision-makers with voices repeating the same message. What was remarkable about 2018 is that not only were we invited to work with PNM to improve the bill, when those negotiations didn’t yield enough progress, we were able to stand together as an environmental community to make sure that an incomplete version of the legislation didn’t get through. This session represents a new high water mark for our work in the Capitol – the environmental lobby won’t be pushed around or out-muscled. Together with our conservation champions, we’ve proven that we can stop even the best resourced anti-conservation measures in their tracks. Read more about PNM’s San Juan Coal Plant bill in our 2018 Issue Spotlight.
In 2019, with the possibility of a pro-conservation Governor at the helm, the opportunities to move New Mexico forward will be significant. We’ve got our sights set on significant legislation dealing with increasing New Mexico’s investment in clean energy like wind and solar, clean air, clean water, and protecting community voices in environmental decision making. Please use the Scorecard to make sure you know who your legislator is, how they’re performing on conservation issues and to ensure that they know how they’re doing representing you.
~ Demis Foster