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For immediate release: March 20, 2021.   Contact: Camilla Feibelman, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org, (505) 715-8388

Santa Fe, NM — As this historic legislative session draws to a close, the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter issued the following statement:

“This legislative session was defined by its highs and lows. Zoom offered unprecedented opportunities to speak out from home, but members of the public were too often refused the ability to comment or raise their voice, in some Senate committees in particular,” said Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter director.

“This session also gave the public a window to the strength and determination displayed by the women and leaders of color in the Senate and House in the face of repeated bullying and abuse.

“We saw legislators innovate and find ways to pass historic legislation despite unprecedented obstacles. We also watched committee strangleholds block legislation critical for New Mexicans’ health and wellbeing. And yet, with the governor’s signature, our public lands will be safe from dangerous traps and poisons; communities around the Gila River will be able to embark on local conservation projects; our civil rights will be actionable; communities have access to creating their own renewable energy; and the path for a just transition to a sustainable economy is clearer.”

Below are some notable pieces of legislation the Rio Grande Chapter and our partners, members and supporters advocated for.

Budgets for environmental protection:

Budget and junior money (HB2, SB377) to increase budgets for the New Mexico Environment Department and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. (Click for more information)

On Climate and a just transition:

SB112, Sustainable Economy Task Force (Sen. Mimi Stewart, Reps. Angelica Rubio, Melanie Stansbury, Patricia Roybal Caballero, Javier Martinez): This legislation creates a task force to recommend economic-diversification opportunities in New Mexico. It also implements the recommendations from a Department of Workforce Solutions study of thousands of New Mexico frontline workers and puts the most impacted communities in the driver’s seat for a clean-energy economy in New Mexico.

SB84, Community Solar (Sens. Liz Stefanics and Linda López, Reps. Roybal Caballero and Andrea Romero). This legislation, years in the works, will make solar energy more affordable and accessible to all New Mexicans. It allows individuals, school districts, municipalities and tribal governments to subscribe to solar energy without having to install solar panels on site.

HB15, Sustainable Buildings Tax Credit (Reps. Kristina Ortez, Tara Luján, Javier Martínez, Linda Serrato, Sen. Peter Wirth): This legislation updates the tax credits for energy-efficient buildings. The state in 2020 updated its standards to the most recent international building codes, so this bill creates stronger requirements so tax credits are not awarded for simply complying with the law.

On Wildlife and Wildlands:

SB32, Roxy’s Law (Sens. Gonzalez, McKenna, Reps. McQueen, Chandler): Roxy’s Law outlaws traps and poisons on public lands, with exemptions for Native religious and ceremonial practices and for health and human safety.

HB200, Gila River Water Trust Board (Reps. Matthew McQueen, Nathan Small, Sens. Mim Stewart, Siah Correa-Hemphill): This legislation would direct the remaining $80 million in federal funding for Gila River water uses toward local water-conservation projects and would charge the Water Trust Board with disbursing the remaining funds. This legislation essentially prevents more wasted time and money on the infeasible and expensive Gila River diversion scheme.

Prescribed Burning (HB57, Rep. McQueen, Armstrong, Sens. Wirth, Woods) This bill will incentivize prescribed burns on private lands which if untreated can drive and worsen wildfires on surrounding public lands.

Outdoor Classrooms (SM1, Sen. Correa Hemphill) establishes a task force to promote the use of outdoor classrooms in NM and request that the Governor declare an “Outdoor Learning Day.”

Environmental Database (HB51, Rep. Chasey): This legislation creates a central database for environmental reports and statistics that is accessible to the public.

On Oil and Gas Protections:

SB8, Local Air-Quality Regulations (Sen. Wirth, Reps. Chandler and Small): This legislation would allow New Mexico to make air-quality safeguards that are stronger than federal regulations.

HB76, Air-Permit Denial for Bad Actors (Rep. Chris Chandler, Sen. Peter Wirth): This bill allows the state to revoke or deny permits to companies that have lied on their applications or committed environmental felonies.

On Civil, Voting and Environmental Rights:

HB4, Civil Rights Act (Reps. Egolf, Louis, Sens. Cervantes): Allowing those whose civil rights have been violated to take action in state court. This eliminates qualified immunity.

HB231, Native American Polling Places (Sen. Benny Shendo, Rep. Georgene Louis): This legislation would allow tribes and pueblos to set their own polling-place locations and remove obstacles that prevent some Pueblo members from voting in the 2020 primary because of pandemic restrictions.

Losses:

HB9, Climate Solutions Act (Reps. Melanie Stansbury: This bill would have codified Gov. Lujan Grisham’s climate executive orders into law. It combined strong greenhouse-gas standards across New Mexico’s economy with equity and just-transition components that were later combined into SB112 and passed.  Died in committee.

HB206, Utility Relief and Affordability Act: This bill would have prohibited utility disconnections  resulting from the pandemic. It would also have authorized the PRC to establish low-income rates, and it created a block grant to distribute federal CARES Act funds for energy-efficiency projects in low-income communities — infusing those funds much faster than would otherwise happen. HB206 passed the House and Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee, never to be heard in the Finance Committee.

SB86, Produced Water: This bill would have prohibited use of freshwater in fracking and made spills of oil and gas waste liquids illegal. It would have also required companies to disclose the contents of waste liquids that were spilled or proposed to be used out of oil and gas operations. This bill was tabled by the Judiciary Committee.

SB82,  Radioactive Waste Review: Would have required to the state to review impacts of storing high-level nuclear waste in NM, amended to indicate that review did not indicate state approval.

SB11, Clean Fuels Act: Would have created a program to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels.

HJR1, Green Amendment: Would have added environmental- and cultural-protection language to the state Constitution Bill of Rights, subject to a ballot resolution in the next general election.

SB114 (formerly HB74): Would have restored voting rights to those formerly incarcerated upon  their release from prison. This bill died waiting for concurrence on the Senate floor.

SB149, Fracking Pause: Would have paused fracking on state lands to review environmental and fiscal impacts on the state

HB50, Private Right of Action: Would have allowed citizens to sue for enforcement of environmental laws.

HB108, Solid Waste Fees: Would have improved the Environment Department’s ability to keep solid waste dumps safe.

SM12, Dairy Rule Effect on Groundwater Resources: Would have required key groundwater reporting on dairy impacts on groundwater.

Wins and losses for climate justice, lands and wildlife