Vote Solar’s New Mexico 2023 Legislative Session Recap
The 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session has ended. And this session went differently than planned. While the start began with substantial environmental, climate, and social bills, politicians defeated many due to politics and not lack of public support. Considering that we started this year with New Mexico in a $3.6 billion budget surplus, we hoped for significant achievements in climate and clean energy legislation. And with the Governor’s strong commitment to climate action in her 2019 executive order, we saw 2023 as a timely opportunity to pass robust climate legislation.
Reflecting on these past few months, I am saddened by the opportunities missed to bring economic, social, and environmental benefits to all New Mexicans.
However, I am uplifted by the bills that were passed this session, including:
Senate Bill 53 effectively blocks a high-level nuclear waste storage project from being built in southeast New Mexico. Our state has a long history of nuclear projects, experiments, and waste. Our people and land deserve a limit on the amount of nuclear waste left here. The passage of this bill is a massive testament to the impact of our coalition’s organizing efforts and strong advocacy in the Roundhouse. We want to congratulate our partners, community members, and all who worked on this for their tireless commitment to the health and safety of New Mexicans and the environment.
House Bill 547, also called the omnibus tax package. This bill includes tax credits for geothermal energy, heat pumps, and energy storage, technology that reduces fossil fuel consumption. HB 547 allows energy storage to be eligible for industrial revenue bonds and credits, meaning you get a rebate for installing things like generators when purchasing or leasing electric vehicles and home chargers.
House Bill 95, codifying the Renewable Energy Office in the State Land Office into law. Our state will now have a permanent office dedicated to advancing renewable energy and transitioning to a green economy.
House Bill 142 requires the New Mexico Environment Department to ensure the remediation and demolition of the San Juan Coal Generating Station will not harm nearby communities or contaminate the environment.
And most excitingly, the giant win of passing the Voting Rights Act, House Bill 4. This bill supports voter accessibility and election security measures, a crucial move as states nationwide roll back voting rights. The Act also includes the Native American Voting Rights Act, eliminating the existing structural barriers for Indigenous People in their right to vote and restoring voting rights for formerly-incarcerated people. Naeva, one of our partners, did an incredible job advocating and organizing for HB 4. We commend their efforts and celebrate their success for our state.
Due to timing, many of our priority bills did not make it out of the Roundhouse. Some of these include:
Senate Bill 266 would have created a statewide carveout for distributed energy generation.
Senate Bill 169 could have established a Climate Investment Center and Fund. This fund would have acted as a “Green Bank,” using public money to attract private sector investments in projects that boost equity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Center would bring in resources where other sources of financing were not typically available.
Senate Bill 432 would have allowed virtual net metering for low-income and multi-family buildings.
House Bill 188 could have created an economic transition division and fund to provide resources to workers and communities in transition. While this bill did not pass, House leadership has assured that they will include the requested funding in the state budget appropriation.
And finally, House Bill 218 could have required electric and gas utilities to provide a low-income rate and bring the average low-income user to an energy burden of 5% or less.
We mourn these left-behind bills but look forward to our next steps and an unrelenting call for change. We will continue to advocate for climate action, clean energy, low-income access to distributed generation and clean energy benefits, Tribal sovereignty, and electric vehicles at the state legislature, agencies, and regulatory bodies. We want to thank our bill sponsors and legislators for all their hard work advancing climate and energy legislation. Of course, none of this is only possible with the tireless commitment of our community advocates, including all of you, put in. Please let us know your thoughts on the activity of this session and your hopes and needs for climate and energy policy in New Mexico. We are here for you.