ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday unveiled a broad “all-of-the-above” plan to develop New Mexico’s energy resources, the first such comprehensive policy outline for the state in 25 years.
The governor recommended a broad array of strategies and policies that includes traditional fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal, and renewables, such as wind and solar, and new technologies, such as “small modular reactors,” to harness nuclear energy.
It’s all about building and diversifying New Mexico’s economy to provide well-paying jobs, Martinez said.
“New Mexico is one of the most energy-rich and energy-diverse states in the nation, and we have an excellent opportunity to utilize this position to grow our economy and create more jobs,” Martinez said in a prepared statement.
“Improving our energy infrastructure, responsibly developing and producing energy of all types and better preparing our workforce for the needs of our energy sector are all critical components not only of a strong economic future, but of helping lead America to energy independence.”
Responses to the plan are likely to be varied, given the broad range of policies it promotes.
Environmental organizations, for example, could take issue with some fossil fuel development strategies, such as a recommendation to export coal from New Mexico mines to sustain that industry as coal consumption by local utilities declines.
Potential future deployment of small modular reactors – an emerging technology that must still be approved by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission – also could prove controversial.
“Anytime you say ‘nuclear,’ it creates adverse reactions – kind of a knee-jerk reaction – but people need to study it first,” said State Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary David Martin. “Others complain about fossil fuels and many consider ‘fracking’ a bad word. So there will for sure be some pushback and maybe some groups with positions that we can’t totally overcome.”
But the plan also includes recommendations that environmental groups and clean energy advocates are likely to embrace, such as efforts to deploy new battery storage technologies and more transmission to better facilitate the development of solar and wind power.
And the traditional energy industry, particularly oil and gas producers, will likely welcome the plan’s efforts to shore up infrastructure and find new markets to sustain production.
Among other things, the plan emphasizes the need for new rail lines to transport goods in and out of the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico, and more pipelines, refineries, and road construction and repair to manage heavy industrial traffic.
“I applaud the administration for taking a balanced, practical look at the future and for trying to meld everything together in a comprehensive way,” said New Mexico Oil and Gas Association President Steve Henke. “This can help shape partnerships between the government and the private sector to develop New Mexico’s vast energy resources in a coordinated, comprehensive way.”
The governor unveiled the plan at the opening of the 2015 Southeastern New Mexico Mayor’s Energy Summit in Carlsbad, where industry leaders and government officials are meeting to discuss energy development. The conference included an opening address by the governor and a keynote presentation by T. Boone Pickens, chairman of BP Capital Management.
Martin said the new plan represents the state’s first comprehensive effort to build a road map for energy development since 1991, when Bruce King was governor. It was developed after extensive public listening sessions that solicited input from local officials, industry, community organizations, concerned citizens and others.
“More than 450 people participated in the sessions throughout New Mexico,” Martin said. “We worked with policy experts to develop a comprehensive document that now includes 12 broad objectives and 89 specific recommendations.”
Some recommendations could be implemented through executive action, Martin said. Others will need legislative approval, and many initiatives will require interagency involvement among state and federal entities.
• Infrastructure development, including new rail lines, pipelines and refineries to move resources in and out of the state’s oil and gas zones in the northwestern and southeastern corners of the state; electric transmission projects to help harness solar and wind potential; road construction and repair to better manage heavy industrial traffic in development zones.
• An “all-of-the-above” approach to energy development, with heavy emphasis on “low-carbon” sources. That includes efforts to deploy new storage technologies for intermittent solar and wind generation, reducing “soft costs” for siting renewable projects, such as permitting processes and tax credits to build demand for natural gas consumption in transportation and industry. It also could include expanding the “renewable portfolio standard.” An expanded standard would instead emphasize low-carbon energy in general, encouraging use of natural gas and nuclear generation, as well.
• Improving energy workforce training at colleges and universities by better aligning curricula with industry needs.
• Aligning fresh water conservation policies with energy production. That includes policies to encourage recycling and reuse of “produced” industrial water, use of brackish water and new technologies to clean industrial wastewater for reuse.
• Streamlining regulatory processes, including greater collaboration among state agencies, and between state and federal authorities.
• Exploring and developing new energy opportunities, such as new storage technologies for renewables, small modular nuclear reactors, energy efficiency upgrades in public buildings and considering new markets for state resources, such as exporting coal to other markets.
The full plan, titled “Seizing Our Energy Potential: Creating a More Diverse Economy in New Mexico,” is available at http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/EnergyPolicy/.