By Faren Dancer, host of AgeNation and KTRC 1260, Santa Fe’s Green Talk Radio
I was tempted to entitle this month’s column…The Roundhouse Roundup, as the 60 day New Mexico Legislative session is reaching its crescendo. That catchy alliteration aside, this has been the most intense session in recent memory. Right out of the gate with Governor Martinez’ nomination for New Mexico Department of Energy and Minerals, Harrison Schmitt, this session has been brimming with controversy, divisiveness, a level of polarization rarely seen, plus the latest trendy exercise scripted by the Governor, the drawing of lines in the sand. Many of us breathed a major sigh of relief when Schmitt unexpectedly declined his background check. One could only assume what skeletons might have been lurking in his closet, and fortunately we were spared the process. Though we are now left crossing our fingers, while holding that same breath, as we await governor Susanna Martinez’ choice for his replacement.
The progressives did a stellar job in holding their ground as a succession of oil and gas industry backed bills bombarded the Senate Judiciary Committee in the attempt to unravel the Environmental Improvement Board’s emissions controls and carbon reduction. The New Energy Economy, a major force behind the EIB and its outreach, showed up hugely with a well prepared legal team and a powerful host of supporters comprised of environmental organizations, small businesses and concerned citizens. In setting the tone for the onslaught of negatively packed bills designed to open the door to the corporate powers looking to recapture the ground they’ve lost in recent years, Governor Martinez continues to spread the propaganda that… things that are good for the environment are bad for business. It’s becoming a philosophical showdown between the old corporate backed paradigm in protection of the status quo, and a new, sustainable future that requires a revisit of our essential perceptions of how we live in relationship to the Earth and each other. It all certainly makes for some excellent contrast.
Power of New Mexico, aka PNM, wasted no time getting light headed in the new political atmosphere by proposing a 25% rate hike, (imagine those countless thousands living in barely insulated manufactured homes on fixed incomes) and a complete opt out of the previous mandate that their energy portfolio be 20% renewable in the not too distant future. Here’s a good one…PNM is phasing out its grid-tied solar incentive of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which just a few months ago was paying a homeowner 13 cents a kilowatt hour for all solar electricity produced on site. In its place they are requesting that a homeowner pay them 8 cents a kilowatt hour for the privilege of putting their energy back into the grid. I’m detecting a bit of a pompous attitude here. News update… PNM has now withdrawn their request for this solar access fee as the pushback has been intense. This aligns with their typical pattern of unreasonable requests and then compromising for somewhat less.
NOTE: PNM is a publically traded Wall St. company whereby all profits exit New Mexico and they, amazingly, convinced our legislature a few years back to guaranty their profits for the next 30 years! San Juan County, the home of the Four Corners Coal burning power plant, one of the largest and dirtiest in the nation, has the sixth highest CO2 emissions of any county in the United States.
New Mexico State Representative Mimi Stewart has evolved the Homeowners Association Bill HB9 for the past six years. Her constituency, District 21, obviously had been expressing some displeasure with numerous inequities that left residents feeling disempowered and without a voice. Previously, there have been no HOA regulations in New Mexico. The protection of citizen’s solar rights were also expressed in the bill as HOAs across the state have continued to impose unreasonable restrictions on solar installations. The mandated planting turf Kentucky Bluegrass, that requires copious amounts of our precious water, spurs additional language that guarantees sensible water conservation. HB9 was approved unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee with all the solar and water stipulations intact and went on to the House floor where it passed on a 65-2 vote! The remaining hurdle is the New Mexico Senate, but with this surprising momentum the enactment of HB9 is within sight.
Finally, here’s where Governor Martinez has decided to drag her toe in a straight line through the sand. It’s starting to feel like a personal vendetta against former Governor Bill Richardson’s incentivized film industry programs. And let’s face it, those liberal filmmakers, hell, the whole damn industry must be just a bunch of over indulgent commie wackos, so let’s just get rid of the third largest industry in New Mexico and revert to pure dependence on the wholesome standards of oil and gas extraction, and while you’re at it, throw in an extra pinch of encouragement to the uranium mining industry. God bless America.
A little insider gossip to feed the imagination… The National GOP is potentially looking to Governor Martinez as their meal ticket to an expanded support base. Given she’s the only Hispanic, female governor in the country, is well spoken and not near as loopy as Sarah Palin, she may just be the natural. So, if all goes well, the pendulum could swing again in New Mexico as soon as two years from now.
Please tune into GREEN TALK RADIO each week an AgeNation Radio, and you can also contact Faren at firstname.lastname@example.org