New Mexico has become the 19th US state to chart its own course toward a lower carbon emissions future, thanks to an executive order signed this week by governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. According to a report by the Albuquerque Journal, the governor described her order as a “game changer” that is part of a far-reaching plan to shift the state toward a renewable energy economy. “This is an administration that is going to make sure that we are robustly enforcing the current environmental rules that we have,” she said.
“We want to make sure we are doing something irrespective of failed policies and a lack of science going on at the federal level today,” she told a crowd that included environmental advocates and schoolchildren. New Mexico is joining 18 other states that are part of the US Climate Alliance. Formed in 2017 after President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the alliance commits each member state to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New Mexico plans to cut its emissions 45% below 2005 levels over the next 12 years.
The executive order directs the state’s environment secretary and its minerals and natural resources secretary to co-chair a new climate change task force. Its mission will be to develop a state strategy by September 1 to reach the emissions reduction goals spelled out in the executive order.
The task force will propose action on four specific topics:
- A market-based program that sets statewide emission limits
- New emissions standards for light-duty vehicles sold in New Mexico
- Updated building codes
- Creation of transmission lines and infrastructure to get renewable energy from clean power plants to market
While New Mexico does not currently have a renewable energy standard, Governor Grisham used her inauguration speech to call for new mandates that would require public utilities to derive at least 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and possibly 80% by 2040.
In another initiative that runs contrary to current federal policy, the executive order requires the task force to develop statewide regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, which would help compensate for the Trump administration’s reversal of federal methane regulations.
“Federal rollbacks of climate protections, waste prevention, and clean air rules have made it imperative for New Mexico to act to protect our citizens and our economy from the damages of climate impacts,” the executive order says. It adds that New Mexico is wasting an estimated $244 million a year through venting, flaring, and leaking of methane in oil and gas operations.
“The new governor has set a tremendous, aggressive goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030, with a task force to come up with the rules, regulations and legislation to get us there,” says Jon Goldstein, regulatory and legislative affairs director for the Environmental Defense Fund.
Governor Grisham was quick to point out, however, that her administration will maintain an “all of the above” strategy when it comes to her state’s electrical energy resources. “Everything doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive,” she said, acknowledging that the ongoing oil boom in southeastern New Mexico has generated an unprecedented state budget surplus.
New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Ryan Flynn applauded the governor’s willingness to work with all stakeholders. “We stand ready to partner with the governor on reducing methane and greenhouse gas emissions. She made clear she wants to bring people together to address those goals, and that’s the best way to approach problems,” he said.
19 states have now declared themselves to be in opposition to Trump’s climate destruction policies. The wonder is not that so many states have elected to oppose a sitting president. The wonder is that so many other states have failed to protect their citizens by doing the same.
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