Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2015 7:00 pm
By Lisa Randall
I have the good fortune of managing the energy and water conservation initiatives, renewable energy projects, and recycling and waste reduction programs for Santa Fe Public Schools.
Below are edited comments I shared with the Public Regulation Commission and the Public Service Company of New Mexico/PRC hearing participants regarding the PNM San Juan Generating Station Replacement Plan.
Since 2010, SFPS has been aggressively working toward a reduction in our energy and water use. We do this because it is the right thing to do for the planet, our state and our young people, and because it allows us to redirect precious dollars to the classrooms. As one of the region’s largest employers and consumers, we see this as a moral and fiscal obligation.
With 14,000 students, 1,800 employees, 35 properties and nearly 2.4 million square feet in our 60-plus buildings, we cannot afford to use taxpayer dollars or natural resources irresponsibly. Though we still have work to do, in these last four years we have reduced our electrical use by 11 percent, our natural gas by 23 percent and our water by 43 percent.
Two elements have allowed us to make these changes: the willingness of our administration and Board of Education, and the extraordinary support from the voters in Santa Fe County. Through 2009 and 2013 general obligation bonds, we have spent several million dollars retrofitting lights, building a half-megawatt of solar photovoltaics, installing HVAC climate controls, monitoring air quality, adding water leak detection and replacing water guzzling grass with synthetic turf.
Every penny we save from this reduction in energy and water use stays in the annual operating budget, which is 86 percent people and salaries, benefiting those who work most closely with the stakeholders we really should have as a top priority when making energy decisions — our children. The challenge to the PNM energy plan isn’t just from Santa Fe, though some try to make that divisive argument. This is about an environmental crossroads for everyone.
My work in the schools brings me face to face with our young people every day. I cannot adequately answer their questions of: “How could you, as adults, have gotten us to this place? How could you have ignored the signs, the warnings, the science for so long? What do you mean there’s no more money in the budget for solar panels? Why aren’t you doing more?”
They have every right to ask these questions and to demand honest answers. They do not care so much about bottom lines, profit margins and shareholders. They care about their future, about endangered species, about the illnesses in their families and themselves, about poisoned groundwater and polluted skies.
We are at an environmental and economic crossroads. Climate science is conclusive, and there is not much time to save the future. The PRC has the power to give these students different answers. If the PRC accepts PNM’s energy replacement plan for the San Juan Generating Station, including the company’s disincentivizing monthly solar fee, it will only continue the fight about stranded assets, adding carbon taxes to the conversation, increased regulation on air and water quality, as well as needed regulation on hydraulic fracturing.
Once again ratepayers will be asked to pay for an outdated business model, bent on short-term profit and long-term environmental and health degradation. Give these students a different answer, PRC. Tell them you choose a clean energy future for them, that you choose their health, their economic stability, their planet, their possibility for a safe and vital future. Please choose a clean energy plan, for all of us.
Lisa Randall is the energy and water conservation program coordinator at the Santa Fe Public Schools.