Comprehensive Needs Assessment, Cleaning Up the
Toxic Mess of the Extractive Economy, and Reparations
What is the Just Transition and Why is it a Focus of Our Work?
The energy tide is turning. The moment for a just transition to renewable energy is upon us and HOW we transition matters. We are making the case for systems change and to a transition that builds upon and advances long-standing traditions of environmental and economic justice struggles in our state.
Our work for the just transition provides the opportunity to radically redesign our state’s economy and our “democracy”– from an energy colony based on extraction and undue corporate influence to a regenerative economy, governed by and for the people – with justice and equity at the center. The energy crossroads at which we stand is not just about fossil fuels or renewables but about who controls the process, who owns the resources, who benefits, and who bears the costs.
We know that in the current model, the utility has been reaping the benefits –extracting enormous profit from the land and the people of New Mexico. The costs of extraction have been disproportionately borne by Diné people whose land has labeled a national “sacrifice zone”and whose health and lives have been sacrificed due to the high levels of heart disease, cancer, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, and other diseases brought on by exposure to the pollution of coal, gas, oil, and nuclear extraction as well as the stress of intergenerational trauma.
The costs of are also disproportionately borne by the poorest households in New Mexican who have seen their rates rise by 63% over the last decade and who exist in a state of energy poverty –paying as much as 50.2% of household income on energy costs. New Mexicans in general have also paid a heavy price –in addition to the ever present threat of severe drought and catastrophic wildfires, our rivers are contaminated with mercury and arsenic, our state is home to the largest methane hotspot in the US – a 2,500 square-mile methane cloud that hovers over the communities in the four corners. We have paid hundreds of millions in public health costs. But we have also paid in a different, more insidious way. New Mexico’s relationship to our monopoly utilities and the extractive industries has corrupted our state’s democracy.
Our Work for a Just Transition
Comprehensive Needs Assessment
We are conducting a comprehensive needs assessment for the communities around, and downstream, of the San Juan Generating Station, scheduled to close in 2022.
Transition planning efforts and investments initiated by local or state officials, or PNM officials to address impending coal plant closures must include Free, Prior and Informed Consent to protect Indigenous Peoples' rights to self-determination, participation, and decision making.
Our Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Project, led by a team of young visionary Diné community leaders, will use surveys to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and formalize the community’s needs, vision, and demands in relation to a just transition. The findings will be submitted as evidence and presented as Expert Testimony in the abandonment and replacement power cases at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, as well as in the community engagement processes for the Office of Surface Mining, NM legislative and administrative planning processes related to the closures.
This HIA will analyze the long-term social, economic, environmental, and health consequences of the San Juan Coal Plant on residents and workers and create an avenue for the community to articulate its needs, rights, demands, and aspirations for the transition. We will drive the needs and demands of the community into the center of our legal and policy work --forcing regulators, policy-makers, and participating parties to include directly impacted communities in the decision-making process. The HIA is also a movement and power building tool. Our HIA team is working to organize the community in order to drive the transition planning process, likely to take place over many years, with many government agencies involved, from the ground up.
Our goal is to survey 500 residents in the impacted region. The voluntary and anonymous survey results will help us analyze the long-term health consequences on both workers and residents in order to consider the ways that the scheduled coal plant closure could positively affect the health of communities in the impacted Four Corners region.
Read info and updates about our HIA project.
Clean Up the Toxic Mess
New Energy Economy is investigating the public health and environmental impacts that stem from 50 years of coal operation at San Juan and Four Corners generating stations. In 2019, we undertake one of the biggest, most important case in our organization’s history – the San Juan Generating Station Abandonment case which will be heard before the Public Regulation Commission (PRC). In addition to the enormous issues around replacement power, and who will own and benefit from them, this case will determine critical issues of remediation, cleanup costs, and economic recovery.
In the constellation of environmental organizations in New Mexico we play a unique role by fighting for what is needed, not for what is politically expedient. New Energy Economy is conducting research at San Juan and will demand, through abandonment case proceedings, that impacts resulting from tens of millions of tons of coal ash buried just below the surface at the San Juan Generating Station mine be mitigated.
The San Juan Coal Plant is one of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in the country, responsible for over 60,000 air quality violations. There are countless other issues of public interest that must be addressed before the PRC as part of the case before PNM is allowed to walk aware from this toxic mess.
Read info and updates about the San Juan Generating Station Abandonment Case.
Read news in our blog about our multi-pronged approach to build a fossil-fuel and nuclear-free economy that stewards both the health of our environment and our communities. A Just Transition to renewable energy means rectifying social inequity, invigorating our democracy, and fostering economic and environmental justice.