By Kendra Pinto / Twin Pines Community Member, and Javier Benavidez / Senior Policy Advocate, New Energy Economy
New Mexico and the Navajo Nation are sacred places in which to grow up. From an early age we develop a special reverence for Mother Nature and Father Sky, particularly because we are raised in the shadows of magnificent landscapes like Shiprock and the Sandias, also known as Turtle Mountain. From early on, New Mexicans develop a deep-down affinity for this land’s average of 350 radiant days of sunshine and the winds that sweep our vast open plains and mesas.
On the flipside, New Mexico also has a long and painful history of environmental injustice. The devastating impacts of extractive industries have been borne by our families over many generations – from those in Silver City who developed black lung from their work in the mines, to loved ones in Church Rock overcome by cancer from toxic uranium spills, to children struggling to breathe in the Four Corners where air quality is among the worst in the nation. The people of Sandoval County are fighting to protect their groundwater from fracking contamination and, in Carlsbad, residents live under the constant threat of radiation from WIPP. Just last summer, an oilfield operated by WPX Energy exploded near our homes in Nageezi, forcing 55 of our neighbors to evacuate and traumatizing our entire community.
We have been told for too long that we must sacrifice our health and that of our lands in order to serve the economy.
Yet New Mexico is endowed with enormous solar and wind potential whose cultivation can create jobs and restore our well-being without jeopardizing our future. The stark contrast between the devastating impacts of extractive energy production and the benefits of renewable energy should drive each of us to help move New Mexico toward 100 percent renewable energy. We need a new, over-arching vision for how to build an economy that is more dynamic, equitable, sustainable and resilient.
Such a vision exists. And there’s a new roadmap to realizing it. By transitioning to a high-employment, high-innovation clean energy economy, we can drastically reduce air pollution, carbon emissions and water usage – all while creating thousands of new jobs and facilitating the emergence of a new advanced energy business cluster in the state. It’s a win-win proposition for our economy and our quality of life.
New Energy Economy has just released a new report illuminating the pathway to a 100 percent renewable electricity sector for New Mexico. It outlines the technical means to add 700 megawatts (MW) of solar power and 1750 MW of wind power to our state’s generation capacity by 2035, meeting the needs of PNM’s 500,000 customers. Crucially, we can achieve this without budget-breaking government interventions. New Mexico’s lawmakers can help realize a renewable power sector with simple actions: first, creating competitive market-based assessments that allow investor-owned utilities, regulators and energy consumers to evaluate and compare all energy options before acquiring new energy supplies. Second, eliminating existing regulatory biases toward fossil fuels. And third, building on the success of New Mexico’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law and those in other high-performing states to strengthen clean-energy targets.
Across the political spectrum, people want new drivers of economic development. The clean-energy transition will set a far-reaching example of how states can exercise leadership and achieve a low-carbon economy. At the same time, the clean-energy transition can lessen our dependence on unpredictable energy markets and volatile foreign governments. The expansion of energy choice strengthens the forces of market competition in a critical sector of New Mexico’s economy.
Our state’s lawmakers have the power to choose which path we will follow, whether the path that made our ancestors first fall in love with this land or one that desecrates this land and our families. Please sign our pledge to put New Mexico on a path to 100 percent renewable energy and toward meaningful job growth, affordable energy and a healthy environment based on innovation, sustainability, competitiveness and resiliency.