New Mexico Passes Carbon Plan for 25% below 1990 levels by 2020

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Despite powerful opposition from the fossil fuel industry in court, a non-profit environmental organization, New Energy Economy, has succeeded in getting New Mexico to adopt a clean energy plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Yesterday, New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board adopted the New Energy Economy proposal on a 4-1 vote. It would begin in 2013, and entail 3% reductions annually.

The climate plan is as ambitious as those adopted by the EU, Japan or Australia to meet the Kyoto Accords, and upgraded at Copenhagen. Like those nations, New Mexico would achieve the greenhouse gas reduction by a move to clean and fuel-free energy sources, funded by pollution fees. The state is rich in untapped solar, geothermal and wind resources.

New Energy Economy provided New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board  a detailed proposal on how to achieve the targets.

  • Under this rule, proposed by New Energy Economy – an independent nonprofit organization, electricity generation facilities, petroleum and natural gas facilities in New Mexico with greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution emissions exceeding 25,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO2) would, starting in 2012, be required to reduce their GHG pollution emissions by 3% per year from 2010 levels. Electricity generation facilities, petroleum and natural gas facilities emitting less than 25,000 metric tons per year can opt into the regulation, and a baseline other than 2010 can be used if it’s more representative of a facility’s usual operations.
  • These requirements would initially apply only to electricity generating facilities (coal or natural gas) and the petroleum and natural gas (refineries, processing and treatment plants, and compressor stations) sectors of New Mexico’s economy, and would initially regulate only carbon dioxide (CO2). The baseline for new electricity sources would be 0.5 metric tons per MWh in 2012, and reduced 3% per year. For new petroleum and natural gas sources, the baseline would be best available control technology in the first year of operations.
  • An owner or operator of more than one source emitting GHG pollution may use excess reductions at one source to comply at a source that it also owns, operates or controls. In addition, sources can petition NMED for early action credit for voluntary emission reductions achieved by the emitter during or after 2005.  Sources may propose the use of New Mexico offsets approved by NMED, or certified by the Climate Action Reserve, to meet their GHG pollution reduction requirements. These offsets could be based on reductions to any GHG pollution emissions, not just CO2. Sources may bank excess reductions indefinitely for later use, and may “borrow” (i.e. delay) emissions reductions for up to one year with a ten percent penalty.
  • Full compliance would be excused in any year that the facility demonstrates it has spent, over its prior year’s expenditure, $50 per metric ton times 3% (0.03) of its 2010, or baseline CO2 metric tons, on reasonable and effective GHG pollution mitigation measures.  For example, a source emitting 100,000 metric tons in 2010 would be excused after it spent $150,000 ($50 x 100,000 x 0.03). The $50 limit increases by $1 each year after 2012.  Sources may seek variances from these regulations.
  • During calendar year 2014, NMED would re-examine these regulations and may propose changes to the regulation, in order to have these regulations consistent with what the best science informs should be done to avoid catastrophic climate change. These regulations would no longer apply to any GHG pollution source whose emissions are limited by a regional or national GHG pollution reduction program and would sunset in 2020. Non-compliance would be subject to a penalty and/or other enforcement action, as determined by the New Mexico Environment Department.

Coming from a non-profit environmental group, this is a completely new paradigm. State policy is almost never put in place by outside environmental groups, let alone after facing down a heavily funded legal battle from the fossil energy industry in court. New Mexico is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and has a powerful fossil lobby.

I asked them how they did it. Lilia Diaz of New Energy Economy said, “one of the reasons that we were successful here is because we had a lot of community support throughout the hearings, with people from very different walks of life testifying in support of a cap on carbon pollution”.

Last year a sinkhole caused by years of poor oil and gas drilling practices opened up near interstate 285 in Carlsbad threatening a church, a highway, several businesses and a trailer park with massive fissures through the town. Awareness of the risks associated with fossil fuels is high.

There’s a catch though. The Environmental Improvement Board that passed the measure is selected by the Governor. A new Governor, Tea Party candidate Susanna Martinez will take over from termed-out Democratic Governor Bill Richardson on January 1st.

Like the Republican party platform, the Tea Party platform is ostrich-like in its complete disavowal of the looming realities of climate change, peak oil and the risk of US decline to third world status by its outright filibuster of clean energy. That risk is more serious now because not only Europe, but even China now speeds past the US in developing the coming clean energy economy of the 21st century.

China is adding 500 Gigawatts of renewable energy by 2020. The Recovery Act had 16 Gigawatts, an unprecedented jolt for the US – the only major US government investment since the Carter era – and now, likely the only one we will get.

A board member said last month that a simple edict from the governor is not enough to kill the plan and speculated that even a reconstituted board could take as long as a year to rescind the measures.

Either way, new Governor Susanna Martinez has a historic decision to make.

A grassroots coalition group that put together the support for this in New Mexico is making a smart move. Only those US states that have already put in place clean fuel-free energy will survive.  There is a short window for transition in the next few decades.

Image: Image collection

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Video

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.