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We won some big fights and lost others

The 56th Legislature has come to a close, and together those of us who advocate for a "first do no harm" approach to the earth won some big fights, and lost others.

We must first acknowledge that in the grand scheme of things, as we find every year, we are constantly on the defense. Every effort to hold the oil and gas industry to a higher standard failed - setbacks to protect public health were defeated, demands to increase oil and gas well bonding requirements failed, and efforts to increase royalty rates from future oil and gas leases were quashed. Outrageously a provision to remove taxation of stripper wells (60% of the operating wells in the state!) was snuck into the tax package at the last moment and passed. This is the Democratic majority legislature we are dealing with.

As is always the case, the long arms of Oil and Gas reach deep into the hearts of New Mexico leadership, and the progress we do make is small. The only environmental bills that could have moved the goalpost significantly towards justice and protection for the people of New Mexico were once again defeated, including the Local Solar Access Fund, but small gains were made in the form of incentives and tax credits for Geothermal, EV's and battery storage. Hopefully the Governor doesn't veto those again this year.

These wins and losses were predictable, but the bigger story this session was the shameless and relentless pursuit of public money to lure experimental and dangerous private extractive industries to New Mexico, all in the name of climate progress. Turds with green sprinkles on top. There were many, and except for the "Clean" Fuels Standard, we defeated them all. This included:

  • HB9, to fund a new division in the Economic Development Department meant entirely to streamline and fast track projects and permits for produced water re-use, hydrogen, carbon capture and other false climate solutions.

  • SB215, an extreme carbon capture and sequestration bill that was designed to limit public input into carbon capture projects and foist all liability for damage from seismic activity or groundwater pollution onto the state, and

  • HB259, an effort to authorize a percentage of the permanent fund to be invested in private equities for funding of these false climate solutions.

And of course, the Strategic Water Supply, a proposal to give $500M of public funds to private industry to find a way to commodify and sell fracking waste and our deep water aquifers to the highest bidder. The Governor has already declared that she will move ahead with the scheme in some capacity, telling reporters "we've already started the process with companies and stakeholders, and I'm grateful about that because we've got money in some places that will allow us to lean in."

She is even threatening to call a special session, where the proposal would most certainly be brought up again, though she blames the failure on poor messaging “I used the word commodity, maybe that was a poor choice," and further “Maybe I need to make it more about consumer protection to the House and to the Senate, and less about economic development.”

It is not the words she is choosing that brought New Mexicans out to oppose the Strategic Water Supply, it is the idea itself. The lack of scientific evidence, the threat to our water, health and safety, and the obvious and egregious effort to use public funds to bail out the oil and gas industry for their costly and enormous waste problem. Whether it is a special session or the next legislative session, and regardless of the words she chooses to use, we will continue to oppose any proposal that endangers the place we love.

We are so grateful for the collective effort by all the organizations and advocates who showed up, who made calls, who sent emails and wrote letters in the paper. It was our collective and united opposition that won the day.


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