SB489 Sponsor acknowledges failure to adequately consult Indigenous impacted communities and Senate
Contact: Kimberly Smith
For Immediate Release
Santa Fe, New Mexico (March 6, 2019) - On Monday March 4, 2019 The New Mexico Senate Corporations Committee voted “Do pass” on Senate Bill 489 “The Energy Transition Act”. There were two hearings held by this committee to receive public comment and discuss amendments to the original bill. The first was held on Saturday, March 3, 2019 when a substitute bill was introduced to the committee for the first time.
Representatives of the Indigenous Coalition were present to voice concerns regarding the failure of proponents and Sponsors to consult impacted Indigenous communities in the drafting of the bill and to express support for amendments made by Senator Shendo to address the specific needs of Indigenous impacted communities in the substitute draft. We appreciate the words of Senator Candelaria, who offered an apology and committed to improve tribal consultation practices:
“I want to actually apologize and I want to take ownership that tribal consultation [in] the work that we have done to make this bill…should have happened earlier and I take full responsibility for that and…if people [have] learned anything from this experience the answer is a firm yes… we should thank the people of Jemez and the native people whose land we meet [on] and that should be done at the beginning of every session we have because that’s the reality we live.”
The leadership demonstrated by Senator Shendo, Regis Pecos and Senator Candelaria, who helped secure the “Do Pass” vote on the amended version, should be an example to our other leaders, especially those who truly believe in supporting the sovereignty of Native tribes, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The major amendments to SB 489, carried by Senator Shendo, include:
• The creation of a $2 million Energy Transition Indian Affairs Fund to create an assistance plan to assist impacted Indigenous communities
• The requirement of establishing a public planning process in impacted communities to inform the use of money in the fund
• The Economic Development Department is required to develop an economic diversification and development plan to assist impacted communities
• Tribal consultation is required pursuant to the State-Tribal Collaboration Act
• The creation of a community advisory committee to be convened by three people, one person from each major political party, and one person representing Navajo chapters in the affected community
• The community advisory committee will include a member of each municipality, county, Indigenous Nation and land grant in the affected community, in addition to four appointees representing diverse economic and cultural perspectives from the impacted community and one appointee representing displaced workers
• The community advisory committee provides recommendations to the Economic Development Department and the Workforce Solutions Department on how to spend money from the funds in those departments
Without the amendments, the Energy Transition Act would have remained woefully inadequate for especially impacted communities. It’s impacted communities that deal with the legacy of contamination, economic injustice and dependency on a boom and bust economy rooted in border towns. Towns founded on endemic racism against Indigenous Peoples. Our realities, away from the negotiations carried out by big environmental groups, industry representatives, and politicians, were not once considered in the drafting of the original bill. That is why the compromises and agreements between those stakeholders represented in the original version of SB 489 would not have been successful in meeting the ambitious plan to transition to 80% renewable energy by 2040.
There is no Just Transition without consultation with Indigenous Peoples. A Coalition of Indigenous Peoples worked to bring attention to the deficiencies of the bill, presented in an open letter to the governor, with over 60 Indigenous businesses, organizations, community leaders, advocates and allies supporting the proposed amendments (found at: www.whatsnextnm.com). While many of the amendments were addressed in the substitute draft, others remain unaddressed such as language in the bill that could be interpreted to exclude tribal entities from placing bids on the production of renewable resources needed to replace the electricity currently generated by the San Juan station.
The signatories represent the collective expertise Indigenous Peoples bring to the table; from medicine people and community advocates working on land restoration, climate change, racial justice, health equity, environmental justice, cultural resilience and restoration of traditional ecological knowledge, to lawyers, researchers, scientists and other experts in economic justice, human rights, policy, and water protection. Had Indigenous Peoples been involved from the start, these deficiencies would not have been present. We thank the 68 signatories that carried the voices of our communities to ensure that this oversight was remedied.
It is Indigenous People that have had to deal with the uncertainty of these industries and for the Navajo Nation in particular, who deal with the cumulative impacts of the Navajo Generation Station (NGS), the San Juan Generating Station, and the Four Corners Power Plant. Over 60 years of negative impacts and providing energy to Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico & Colorado ratepayers and municipalities, while our own people go without electricity. Extractive economies have created opportunity costs and undermined traditional economic lifeways, including farming and agriculture, that have been compromised because of contaminated soils. San Juan Generating Station uses an average of 22,000 acre feet of water or 11,000 gallons per minute. Our dependency and our exposure make us the most vulnerable to the continuation of these industries and its closure. This is the legacy of colonization. Overcoming it means acknowledging the history and legacy of violence and theft that comes with these industries and border towns.
A Just Transition is important but can only be achieved when we actively promote inclusion and justice in the development in any decision-making process. It is about doing right by all people impacted because our communities will only be stronger when we ensure that basic human rights, environmental justice and sustainability, and equity among all our children are achieved.
The Indigenous Coalition will continue to work and track SB 489, to ensure passage of a comprehensive approach that supports and acknowledges the lived experiences and needs of our Indigenous impacted communities.
To learn more about the indigenous coalition visit: www.whatsnextnm.com