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Lawmakers send carbon-free energy proposal to Lujan Grisham

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A wind farm near Deming, photographed in November. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

SANTA FE — Complex legislation that would push New Mexico toward carbon-free energy generation over the next 25 years won approval in the House on Tuesday — sending the bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the final days of the session.

The proposal, Senate Bill 489, would authorize the use of bonds for Public Service Company of New Mexico to pay for costs associated with closing a coal-fired power plant in the Four Corners area.

It would also phase in requirements for PNM and other public utilities to shift to carbon-free energy generation by 2045. They would have to derive 50 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040.

The bill passed 43-22. It won approval in the Senate last week and now heads to Lujan Grisham, who has pushed for its passage.

Rep. Nathan Small, a Las Cruces Democrat and co-sponsor, said the measure would provide help to Four Corners communities affected by the closure of the power plant and allow the state to harness its potential for renewable energy. Closure of the plant, he said, is the result of market forces, not state action.

“New Mexico stands at a moment of energy transition,” he said.

Opponents of the bill argued that it would help PNM more than coal miners or other workers. They questioned the feasibility of moving to carbon-free electricity and sought more time to find a deal to save the power plant.

Five Democrats jointly sponsoring the bill — Sens. Jacob Candelaria and Mimi Stewart, both of Albuquerque; Reps. Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque and Small; and House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe.

Lujan Grisham praised the legislation in a statement after the vote.

“The Energy Transition Act is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans,” she said. “When we were presented the chance to move toward cleaner sources of energy, we took it, boldly charting a course to a carbon-free future, permanently centering our commitment to lower emissions and setting an example for other states.”

She added that the bill “does not leave our neighbors in San Juan County behind, as we will provide millions for trainings and economic development.”

A mix of business and environmental groups have pushed for passage of the bill.

Coal miners and others have turned out to speak against it.

Mariel Nanasi of New Energy Economy, a Santa Fe-based group, said the legislation essentially traded an increase in renewable energy standards for a gutting of regulatory authority by the Public Regulation Commission and giveaways to PNM.

“We don’t think the trade was worth it,” she said.

 

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