Panel discussion topics included legislative successes and failures, energy transition legislation, gaming commission reform, the state budget and oil and gas dependence, the governor’s hydrogen initiative and water.
Rob’s Place at O’Neil’s Pub was decorated with holiday decorations and had a festive feel, while the room hosted a panel discussion on the environment and Congress.
New Mexico Political Report held its first live event since 2017 on Thursday night.
The panel included Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camila Fabelman, Western Resource Advocate Policy Manager Dr. Brittany Fallon, and New Mexico Political Reportenvironmental reporter Hannah Glover.
Panel discussions discussed legislative successes and failures, the Energy Transition Act, Gaming Commission reform, the state budget and dependence on oil and gas, the governor’s hydrogen initiative and water.
Legislative successes include the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund;
“(The fund) provides permanent funding to soil and water conservation districts for various types of conservation efforts on private and agricultural land. Funds for Noxious Weed Removal on Public Lands, a federal program. But I think the main thing you need to know is that we’re going to set up New Mexico to be permanently aligned with the federal programs that we’ve been neglecting for decades.” Fallon said.
One of the environmental legislative failures was the geothermal tax credit, which was passed as part of an omnibus tax bill but was vetoed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The Energy Transition Act was a source of debate among panelists, both positive and negative.
Passed in 2019, the ETA requires New Mexico’s utilities and cooperatives to use 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Implementation of the law was delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right now, projects are catching up and getting built. We’re seeing good progress there,” Feibelman said.
Another issue was reform of the New Mexico Game Commission, which sets hunting and fishing regulations and oversees the New Mexico Game and Fish Department’s budget.
“We don’t have a gaming commission where we can trust that the commissioners will serve the public, listen to their constituents, and make the best decisions based on science. They serve at the will of the governor. I came here for this,” Fallon said. “So they can be removed at any time and for any reason, and we look forward to Congress revisiting it.”
Gaming Commission reforms were passed by Congress during the 2023 session, but Lujan Grisham vetoed the bill.
The panel also discussed New Mexico’s dependence on oil and gas to fund the state budget.
The state budget is at a record high with revenue from oil and gas as well as changes to the tax code that are more fair to low-income households. Another source of revenue is the federal Inflation Control Act.
However, revenues from the oil and gas industry remain an important part of the budget.
“The big challenge we have in New Mexico is that we have to make sure that we don’t leave behind the communities that have been producing oil and gas in the transition,” Glover said. “I know that Stephanie García Richard is great at looking at ways to diversify the uses of state trust lands. There is a huge increase in renewable energy on state lands. , there is a discussion going on in the child care sector about what can be done to bring about economic development.”
There are also checkerboard issues with these lands that prevent landowners from developing resources when state or federal land is not an option, Glover said.
“So we have to find a way to bring these people, and a lot of that has to do with expanding infrastructure,” Glover said. “We need more transmission lines, which is always a challenge. As we have seen with SunZia, transmission lines take decades to build, but all other transmission lines have been proposed and are under construction. But construction still needs to pass some major hurdles.”
The panel was livestreamed New Mexico Political Report Facebook page.