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Let Us Be Heard

A bill wending through the Legislature aims to put New Mexico on a path to a full transition to renewable energy resources.

SB 489 would steadily increase the state's renewable portfolio standards to 100 percent zero-carbon resources by 2045. It would close the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, and has garnered endorsements from big names like the Sierra Club and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham; the latter showed up to the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee hearing early on Saturday morning to pass out coffee to audience and committee members.

Backers say SB 489 would make New Mexico a national leader in the transition toward a more sustainable future. Yet testimony this weekend revealed that in the process of drafting the bill, sponsors and environmental groups failed to include Native people in imagining what that future could look like. Further, they did not consult any of the Indigenous communities or tribal governments in the Four Corners region who will be directly impacted by the closure of the San Juan Generating Station, the primary owner of which is the Public Service Company of New Mexico.

This oversight reveals significant blind spots within the mainstream environmental movement toward the area of environmental justice, where issues of inequality and historical oppression intersect with the issues of climate change and conservation. Moreover, tribal leaders are concerned with potential job losses through closure of the plant, which is located along the border of the Navajo Nation.

The bill received a "do pass" recommendation from the Senate Conversation Committee on Feb. 26. But tribal members stood up during the hearing to voice their concerns about the lack of consultation.

The Corporations and Transportation Committee heard the bill Saturday, and on Monday its members moved an amended version forward, which includes additions from Sen. Benny Shendo, Jr. (D-Jemez Pueblo) that address some of the issues concerning Indigenous community input.

At Saturday's hearing, Janene Yazzie (Diné) told committee members: "I am here to speak on behalf of the coalition of leaders, organizers and advocates that have brought forward an Indigenous reading and analysis of the bill. … As it was originally introduced, [the bill] only represented the results of negotiations between industry, environmental groups and nondescript community groups and the compromises that were agreed upon between these actors. … Not inviting us to the table until after this bill was introduced does not uphold the consultation standards that need to be respected in decisions that impact our Indigenous communities." READ ARTICLE at SF Reporter.

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