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A responsible shift to clean energy

Recently, Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, and Sens. Mimi Stewart and Jacob Candelaria, both D-Albuquerque, introduced Senate Bill 489, the Energy Transition Act. With Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, I add my full support to this landmark legislation, which lays a path for N.M.’s clean energy future while making sure we don’t leave families behind.

In these times where too often we feel divided, I applaud the effort put forth to work with a diverse cross-section of important stakeholders. Convened by my staff over the past year, environmental advocates, labor unions, community organizations, utilities and many others met countless times, reviewing draft legislation in painstaking detail. Each meeting was open to a lengthy list of stakeholders to participate and add their voice. We heard from constituents from across the state, and I am proud that we have forged a strong bill that moves New Mexico into the renewable energy age, reduces household and business electricity costs, and prioritizes taking care of families in the Four Corners.

The families of this region, home to the San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant, have literally powered New Mexico for decades. Because the San Juan Generating Station is slated for retirement in 2022, it was of particular importance to me that the Legislature create a just transition for workers, the community and local governments that depend on the property tax revenue from the San Juan Generating Station.

The Energy Transition Act does just that, creating a $40 million fund to directly assist coal mine and power plant workers and help the region diversify its economy. This fund is made possible by a financing tool, securitization. Securitization allows PNM to refinance its costs on the coal plant at a lower interest rate, creating funds to aid just transition and economic development.

Studies by Dr. Kelly O’Donnell, a research professor at the University of New Mexico School of Public Administration, provide pathways for San Juan County’s economic prosperity. She notes closure of the San Juan mine and Generating Station in 2022 will eliminate around 450 jobs and create property tax losses for San Juan County, $3.2 million; Central Consolidated School District, $3.5 million; and San Juan Community College, $1.9 million. A large utility-scale solar plant at or near SJGS could replace all lost property tax revenue, support thousands of jobs over two or more years of construction and generate over $67 million in additional tax revenue for state and local government, replacing lost taxes.

O’Donnell also found the Four Corners Area is perfectly situated for five economic strategies that would diversify its economy: tourism and outdoor recreation, solar and scalable storage, mine reclamation, health care, and local food systems. Farmington has already made strides developing an outdoor recreation economy through the leadership of the mayor, city council and county commission. The Energy Transition Act is designed to provide important resources for their plans. This area has provided power for generations, and we should ensure it participates in the energy future.

The Energy Transition Act sets up one of the most ambitious renewable energy and carbon-free standards in the country and creates millions of dollars for a just transition. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation I have seen for our economy and future, and I am excited to work with my colleagues to ensure its passage.

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