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Advocacy group: NM can benefit from Clean Power Plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests New Mexico could reap substantial health and economic benefits through proactive policies to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “clean power plan.”

The plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants nationwide by 32 percent by 2030, sets mandatory individual reduction targets for each state. In New Mexico, it calls for lowering emissions by 34 percent by 2030.

The new study by UCS — a Massachusetts-based advocacy organization that uses science-based research and analysis to influence policy — says New Mexico could meet its obligations while saving money for electric consumers, lowering health care costs and generating new revenue for the state through carbon-credit trading with other states.

In particular, it recommends that New Mexico pursue new policy initiatives to maximize benefits. That would include expanding the state’s renewable energy portfolio and energy efficiency targets beyond current mandates, plus legislative approval for New Mexico to conduct inter-state trading of carbon credits.

By doing those things, the study says New Mexico could:

–Encourage $2.7 billion in new investments in solar and wind generation.

— Reduce average household electric costs by about $33 per year by 2030 compared to costs without power-plan compliance.

— Generate $115 million in average annual revenue from carbon-credit trading between 2022 and 2030.

— Provide about $223 million in health and economic benefits through 2030 from pollution reduction at power plants.

The study, which the UCS is releasing today, is part of a new national analysis of the clean power plan coming out next week. New Mexico is one of six individual state studies that accompany the larger one, said UCS senior energy analyst Jeff Deyette, who is heading a UCS delegation to New Mexico this week.

“We want to encourage the state to move forward,” Deyette said. “We believe our analysis demonstrates clear economic, consumer, and social and health benefits by moving toward more clean energy sources.”

All states are supposed to submit compliance plans to the EPA by next September, but the U.S. Supreme Court imposed a stay in February until the D.C. Court of Appeals rules on a legal challenge to the plan by more than 20 states.

New Mexico is not among the litigants, and the state has previously said it would comply with the plan. Environment Department officials say that position has not changed, assuming the federal courts uphold the plan’s legality. But the state prefers a legislative solution to carbon emissions and climate change, Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn told the Journal in an email.

“As New Mexico has stated since the clean power plan was originally proposed, a bipartisan legislative solution to greenhouse gas emissions can be more effective for creating sustainable results,” Flynn said. “[That would] avoid the overstepping of federal regulatory boundaries, which occurs when the executive branch of government attempts to legislate through regulations, rather than Congress.”