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Group presses forward with efforts to repeal energy law

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An energy advocacy group will continue to gather signatures for a petition calling on New Mexico lawmakers to repeal a landmark clean energy bill.

Larry Behrens, western state director for Power the Future, said Thursday his group remains hopeful legislators will take action to overturn the Energy Transition Act in the current 30-day session, even though it was not included in the governor’s call.

“The legislative session is far from over and there’s plenty of time for lawmakers to start the process of protecting New Mexicans from this disastrous law,” Behrens said in a statement.

However, even if legislators do not work to overturn the law in the current session, they will continue to gather signatures until it is.

The New Mexico Constitution restricts items that can be taken up in a 30-day session to bills related to the budget or revenue, bills that are drafted pursuant to a special message by the governor or legislation vetoed in the previous session.

Power the Future launched an online petition in October calling on legislators to repeal the Energy Transition Act. The group purchased two billboards — one located at the intersection of Second Street and North Missouri Avenue in Roswell and another in Farmington — that urge people to visit the website EnergyTransitionTruth.com and sign the petition.

Behrens did not give an exact number, but said Thursday more than 1,000 people have signed the petition since it went active with more adding their names each day.

He said the petition has not yet been presented to legislators.

The Energy Transition Act that passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor in 2019 would make New Mexico a leader in the share of its electricity generated from renewable, carbon-free sources.

The bill increases renewable portfolio standards for 100% carbon-free renewable energy standards for public utilities by 2045, after considering safety, reliability and cost to consumers. Rural electric co-ops would have a target date of 2050 to achieve that same renewable energy standard, after considering safety, reliability and cost to consumers.

The bill authorizes bond financing for public utilities to recover the cost of shuttering coal power plants, and puts in place an emission limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity by 2023.

In a press release from the governor’s office about the signing of the bill, the governor said the Energy Transition Act would help create not only a cleaner environment but a renewable energy economy and new job opportunities.

Behrens though said the standards laid out in the bill will cost energy workers’ jobs, result in reduced state revenue and drive up electricity rates for consumers.

Power the Future, which does not disclose the names of its donors, also alleges environmental groups had a disproportionate role in crafting the legislation, while ratepayers and energy workers had no input.

“What we would say is the New Mexico energy workers and ratepayers deserve a seat at the table when deciding New Mexico’s energy future,” Behrens said.

New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, who were two sponsors of the Energy Transition Act, did not respond to requests for comment before press time Thursday.

Some local legislators such as state Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, has said the Energy Transition Act needs to be re-examined. However, he said, he does not see that happening soon.

“I don’t see that this bill will be taken in this session or even in the future, unless you have a large change in the composition of the Legislature,” Nibert said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.