New Mexico Senate passes ‘clean fuel standard.’ Lujan Grisham’s climate agenda advances

Source: By Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus • Posted: Monday, February 7, 2022

A bill that would see less pollutive fuel for cars and trucks passed the New Mexico Senate Thursday and will now go before the State House of Representatives for consideration.

If Senate Bill 14, the Clean Fuel Standard Act, passes the House, its next stop will be Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk to be signed into law.

SB 14 previously passed the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Jan. 19, and then the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

Before the full Senate, the bill received a passing vote of 25-16.

Sponsored by Sen. Mimi Steward (D-17), the bill would require producers of transportation fuel like gasoline of diesel to decrease the carbon emissions each year.

It would not apply to fuel retailers like gas stations, but also incentivize the development of charging stations for electric vehicles throughout New Mexico.

The Clean Fuel Standard was a main environmental priority of Lujan Grisham’s during the ongoing 30-day Legislative Session that ends Feb. 17.

Her administration estimated the bill would reduce emissions by 18.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to 570,000 cars, arguing it would not impact fuel prices for motorists.

“The Clean Fuel Standard Act will reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, improving the health of our communities and quality of our air while increasing consumer fuel options and attracting new economic investments,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

“We will be the very first state in the southwest to implement a clean fuel standard, setting us ahead of the curve economically and environmentally.”

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With targets of cutting emissions throughout the transportation fuel chain by 20 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2040, the Clean Fuel Standard enjoyed support from multiple environmental groups in New Mexico.

Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter said the standard was needed policy to shift New Mexico away from fossil fuels.

“This bill supports the transition away from fossil fuels towards electric vehicles, which will cut down on carbon pollution and fight climate change,” she said upon the Senate’s passage. “We’ve been pleased to see this bill evolve and improve, including doubling the aspirations for greenhouse-gas reductions and a 100% investment of utility credits in electrification and impacted communities.”

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Lujan Grisham’s environmental priority bills during the typically budget-focused 30-day session saw success during the session so far.

House Bill 6, the Clean Future Act, which would target greenhouse gas emission reductions statewide, advanced from the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee last week with a “no recommendation” vote last week meaning the committee took no stance but allowed the bill to move on to the Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.

The governor was dealt a blow when House Bill 4, the Hydrogen Hub Development Act, was tabled by House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee after Lujan Grisham and her cabinet promoted in heavily ahead of and during the session.

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Supporters of the bill and Lujan Grisham vowed to seek bringing HB 4 off the table, and House Bill, the General Appropriations Act, included some funds aimed at leveraging for about $125 million in federal dollars for hydrogen development contingent on HB 4’s passage.

“Our budget aims to diversify our state’s economy and create good-paying sustainable jobs for New Mexicans, while also addressing the impacts of climate change and supporting our transition to a clean energy future,” said Rep. Nathan Small (D-36), a sponsor of HB 4.

Oil and gas groups were skeptical of the administration’s continued push for stricter environmental regulations, as Larry Behrens, Santa Fe-based spokesman for Power the Future said the Clean Fuel Standard amounted to a “tax” on energy in New Mexico that would impact consumers at the pump.

“The Governor’s proposal amounts to nothing more than a backdoor tax increase forced on New Mexico’s families. With inflation at a 40-year high and gas prices still soaring, now is the worst time to be sticking working-class families with yet another cost increase to advance a political agenda,” Behrens said.

“It’s long past time the Governor put our families before her environmental campaign donors.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.