Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday she’s “energized” about New Mexico’s role in addressing climate change and optimistic about steps businesses are taking to address the issue, after spending this week in Glasgow, Scotland, for a United Nations conference.
Lujan Grisham has played an active role in the climate conference, speaking during several events and moderating a panel discussion with leaders from other states.
She also received praise from President Joe Biden’s top climate adviser, who said proposed methane emission rules announced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency this week were based on similar greenhouse gas rules enacted in New Mexico.
However, the governor still faces a balancing act back home in the nation’s second-highest oil producing state, as youthful advocates for addressing climate change have blasted Lujan Grisham for not moving fast enough, and some fossil fuel advocates have accused her of hypocrisy for traveling to Scotland by airplane.
In a Thursday interview from Glasgow, the Democratic governor said laying the groundwork for a cleaner future takes time.
“You can’t just turn on a switch – there is a transition,” Lujan Grisham told the Journal. “I can’t make all the infrastructure overnight.”
But she insisted New Mexico is on the “right track” to meet future demands for more electricity while phasing out coal-powered energy generation and imposing new renewable energy mandates.
“People around the globe are looking at what we’re doing,” the governor said.
Lujan Grisham traveled to Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference with a delegation that included state Environment Secretary James Kenney, Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst, according to the Governor’s Office.
While the trip is official state business, Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said the travel costs are being paid for by the Climate Registry, a nonprofit group with a vision to “make global warming history,” according to its website.
Since taking office in 2019, Lujan Grisham has ordered the state to join a national coalition seeking to combat the effects of climate change and banned routine venting and flaring of natural gas.
She also signed into law the state Energy Transition Act in 2019, which requires the Public Service Company of New Mexico and public utilities to shift to carbon-free energy generation by 2045.
Going forward, Lujan Grisham has called on the Legislature to pass bills dealing with clean fuel standards, a legal framework for hydrogen energy development and mandating net-zero carbon emissions across every sector of the state’s economy by 2050.
Those bills will all be part of the governor’s agenda for the 30-day legislative session that starts in January, Sackett said Thursday.
However, the Lujan Grisham administration has also worked with fossil fuel industry leaders on several bills and the governor recently spoke at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting.
That prompted a protest outside the downtown Santa Fe hotel where the event was occurring, with some advocates holding signs asking the governor: “Which side are you on?”
Meanwhile, Larry Behrens, a spokesman for Power the Future, a group that has opposed renewable energy mandates, questioned why the governor and other members of the New Mexico delegation did not participate in the conference remotely given high gas costs.
Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection next year, has defended her administration’s handling of energy issues while acknowledging New Mexico’s unique standing as both a top oil-producer and a state that had one of the nation’s largest increases in renewable energy production over the last decade.
While the governor acknowledged she has work to do to sell her agenda to New Mexico lawmakers, her administration’s policies aimed at greenhouse gas emissions appear to have won admirers in Washington, D.C.
During a Tuesday panel discussion at the Scotland climate change conference, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy acknowledged the Environmental Protection Agency had followed New Mexico’s lead in proposing the national methane emission regulations.
“We did it because it’s the right thing to do, because you tested it and because the technologies are available and it’s cost effective,” McCarthy said, referring to Lujan Grisham.