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Climate change needs to be taken seriously, NM lawmakers say

The Green New Deal isn’t about doing away with cows or airline travel, according to one of the bill’s sponsors.

“That’s not it at all,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who dismissed such talk as “crazy things.”

She and fellow New Mexico Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján, however, said the nation needed to take climate change seriously.

And they aren’t alone among the New Mexico congressional delegation expressing that opinion. Their Democratic colleagues in the Senate, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, were among 45 in that chamber to sponsor legislation last week to direct the Trump administration to meet the standards established by the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

“We need to tackle climate change,” Haaland said at a recent event in Albuquerque. “It’s very clear we have a little more than a decade to make the changes we need to. If you talk to people who say, ‘My village in Alaska is going to be under water in about 10 years, we’ve got to locate to a new place’ — we take that situation seriously.”

Haaland called on the state to be a leader in the expansion of renewal energy, citing the state’s potential with wind energy. She also said New Mexico could be a leader in renewable energy, while also being among the leading producers of oil and gas in the country. Revenue from the oil and gas industry is a major contributor to the state budget.

“I don’t think just because the Permian Basin and the San Juan Basin are producing lots of fossil fuel right now, that absolves us of our responsibility to pursue renewable energy in our state,” she said.

She and Luján, however, expressed concerns about methane emissions by the industry in the state.

“It’s creating less healthier environments in those communities,” Luján said. “How can you live there, raise those animals there? We’ve got to take action.”

Haaland said the oil and gas industry “has a responsibility to run a clean industry.”

“They need to spend the money to make sure they are not polluting our air,” Haaland said.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association communications director Robert McEntyre said the industry is trying to do just that. He pointed to Environmental Protection Agency statistics that show the industry is improving when it comes to methane emissions.

“The industry is getting better at reducing its methane footprint,” he said. He also concedes more needs to be done, and said the industry is looking for ways to do so, and still remain a growing industry.

McEntyre also pointed to an op-ed by NMOGA Executive Director Ryan Flynn that stated the industry would be a willing partner with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration in working to reduce the emissions, not only in the state, but nationwide.

“We’re willing to take a seat at the table,” McEntyre said.

Among other measures Luján would like to see taken on climate change is a return to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The bill sponsored by Udall and Heinrich directs the Trump administration to develop a strategic plan for the country to meet its commitment under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which the United States joined with nearly 200 other nations.