Legislative roundup 2018: Governor nixes solar credit

By Dan Lorimier and Mona Blaber, Rio Grande Chapter staff

Most of the progress made in the 2018 New Mexico legislative session stopped at the governor’s desk. But some bright spots give hope for better outcomes under a new governor in 2019:

Solar tax credits: On the final night, the House passed Senate Bill 79, which renews the 10% tax credit for residents and small businesses who install solar panels. This credit, which had been in place in New Mexico but expired in 2016, would reduce the effect of the recent U.S. tariff on solar panels. Unfortunately, Gov. Susana Martinez failed to sign it by the deadline, killing it (also called a pocket veto). Martinez also vetoed the bill in 2016, but November’s election will decide whether our next governor will see the value of solar in fighting climate change and developing our state’s economic strengths. Thanks to Environment New Mexico for its leadership on this bill.

Bad Seed bill: HB161, an ALEC bill that would have stopped any local government from, for example, requiring labeling of genetically modified crops or imposing public-health restrictions like setbacks or pesticide-drift regulations, died in the House State Government, Indian Affairs and Veterans Committee. Thank you for writing and calling this committee’s members. Thanks also to the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance for its leadership in analyzing and opposing this bill and to the many traditional and indigenous farmers who testified against it.

Chaco memorials: SM42 and HM85 affirmed New Mexico’s commitment to protecting and preserving the cultural and historical sites in the Greater Chaco landscape and were amended, thanks to efforts by the Chaco Coalition, to include protection for the people living in the region, not just archaeological treasures. Both memorials passed their committees but were not heard by their full chambers.

Study on workforce training for uranium cleanup: HB 208 and SB 251 would have appropriated $250,000 to study programs needed to train New Mexicans for jobs created by recent funding for cleanup of uranium sites. The budget that passed earmarked $200,000 for this purpose, so the bills’ purpose was fulfilled. Thanks for your calls and emails in support of this legislation that will help provide jobs for New Mexicans and make our state a safer place to live.

Keeping the Gila wild: HB330, which would have moved funds away from an ill-conceived Gila River diversion project to instead fund local water-conservation projects in Southwestern New Mexico, was pulled from the House floor and died. This important legislation will appear again next year.

Higher bonds for plugging oil and gas wells: SB 189 increases the cap of the amount of the surety bond a company must post for the plugging an inactive oil or gas well from $50,000 to $250,000. The increased amount is more in line with the cost of plugging a well and remediating a plugged well that leaks, blows out or otherwise fails. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Martinez!

PNM’s securitization bills: HB80 and SB47 represented PNM’s effort to sell bonds to recoup stranded costs if the company retires coal-fired San Juan Coal Generating Station near Farmington in 2022. The original bill benefited only PNM, but environmental and Four Corners groups negotiatied significant improvements, including commitments by PNM to build all replacement power in the same school district as the coal plant and to achieve 50% renewable generation by 2030. Concerns remained about removing Public Regulation Commission oversight and PNM’s requirement that it own a large percentage of the replacement power, and Sierra Club and other environmental groups opposed the final version of the bill. But negotiations led to agreement among environmental and community groups on many important issues and promise progress going forward.

Once again, a gazillion thank-yous to all of you who wrote, called, attended meetings or met with your representatives. It was a thrill to watch in real time the impact your actions had. Please contact your legislators before the 2019 session to let them know what’s important to you. Write to riogrande.chapter@sierraclub.org or fill out the form below to join our lobbying listserv or learn more about how you can help.

Legislative roundup 2018: Governor nixes solar credit