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Luján’s plan requires net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., speaks to a joint session of the House and Senate at the Roundhouse earlier this year. (Eddie Moore/Journal file)

New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2019 Wednesday with a goal of zero carbon emissions from electric generation by 2050.

The two Democrats said the legislation takes a regional approach in the effort to cut down on greenhouse gases. The bill would put the responsibility for reaching the goal on utility companies. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is also a sponsor.

“The time to act is now,” Luján said during a teleconference. “We can’t wait another generation.”

He said the legislation is in line with the Paris Accords.

“We’re facing a climate crisis,” Luján said. “It threatens every human being on this planet.”

“The amount of evidence from the science community recognizing a climate crisis — with real and costly consequences — is becoming insurmountable and requires bold action,” Heinrich said. “The Clean Energy Standard Act will help chart a path towards net-zero emissions in the United States, which will benefit us all by protecting clean air and water, and create a more secure climate future for our children.”

Smith said the effects of climate change are “an economic threat and an environmental threat.”

“We can fight climate change and create jobs,” she said.

Smith said 61,000 clean energy jobs have already been created in Minnesota, and he said they “are high paying jobs.”

Larry Behrens, the western states director for Power the Future, believes the bill would do the opposite to the state economy.

“This bill puts thousands of New Mexico’s energy workers and our economy in jeopardy in order to please eco-left interests from outside our state,” Behrens said. “There are nearly 100,000 workers in New Mexico that deliver affordable energy to the world and it is disheartening some in Washington feel those workers and families are expendable.”

Luján and Smith said the act takes a technology-neutral approach that leaves it up to utility companies to implement measures to meet the standards. Tax credits would be available for the utilities.

The act seeks to:

• Reduce power sector greenhouse gas emissions in 2035 by 61%, with cumulative emission reductions between 2020 and 2035 of approximately 10 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent;

• Increase generation by renewables from 30% to 56% of total generation in 2035;

• Reduce generation from fossil sources from 60% to 26% of total generation in 2035;

• Provide net benefits of $579 billion over the 2020—2035 time period;

Luján said he discussed the legislation with officials with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which supplies most of the state’s electric cooperatives, and with officials from the co-ops. He said they were open to the mandates in the bill.

He said environmental groups and labor unions support the bill. Western Resource Advocates is one of the groups endorsing the bill, which it compares to New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act. That bill requires New Mexico utilities and rural electric cooperatives to be carbon-free by 2045.

No Republicans have signed on as sponsors, Luján and Smith said. But they said they were confident of bipartisan support.

Luján said he hasn’t talked to any Republican lawmakers, but, he said, his staff had reached out to the staffs across the aisle.

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