Environmental bills to watch during this session

·2 min read

Jan. 20—As the New Mexico Legislature crafts spending plans for a hefty budget windfall, lawmakers are pushing bills that would ensure water, agriculture and climate initiatives get a slice of the funding pie.

Rep. Jack Chatfield, a Republican rancher from Mosquero, is co-sponsoring a bill to revive a state meat inspection program with a $1.7 million appropriation to the livestock inspection board.

Chatfield said a lack of local inspectors "leaves food production vulnerable" to shutdowns at corporate meat-processing facilities in neighboring states.

"People want to know where their food comes from," he said. "This is about New Mexicans having a good, reliable supply of quality beef produced by people that you know."

Meanwhile, a bill introduced by Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, and Rep. Debra Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, would give $4.6 million to the newly created Reforestation Center.

The funding would allow the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to work with universities to train foresters, grow seedlings and replant forests.

EMNRD Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said the center will help the state "recover better from forest fires."

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has backed two climate bills focused on reducing emissions.

The Clean Fuel Standard Act would reduce the carbon intensity standard for petroleum and other transportation fuels. The bill enables producers to offset high-carbon fuel by buying credits from companies that reduce emissions or create such alternatives as biodiesel and ethanol.

"I think, given the scale of the oil and gas industry in New Mexico, we're likely to see very substantial credit generation coming out of that industry in particular," said Graham Noyes, executive director of the Low Carbon Fuels Coalition.

Opponents say the bill could raise gas prices. But supporters point to crude oil prices as the major factor in costs at the pump, and say other states have not seen a correlation between fuel standards and gas prices.

The Clean Future Act would mandate state greenhouse gas levels be at net-zero emissions by 2050 — a goal first outlined in the governor's executive order on climate change.

Other bills include:

—$12 million to the Office of the State Engineer for water planning and administration

—$10 million to NMSU for operation of 12 agricultural science centers

—$500,000 to the Public Education Department for an outdoor learning specialist and assistant, outdoor learning training and materials

—$400,000 for acequias and community ditches

—$50,000 to $60,000 to the Water Trust Fund for water storage, reuse and delivery projects

—Amending the Natural Heritage Conservation Act to authorize land acquisitions

—Amending the New Mexico Constitution by adding the right to a clean and healthy environment

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.