How could recent federal laws signed by Biden aid New Mexico in shift from fossil fuels?

Millions of federal dollars could be used to shift New Mexico away from traditional forms of energy like fossil fuels, environmentalists argued, using provisions in two signature pieces of legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The Inflation Reduction Act enacted this year and last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act offered states incentives and grant opportunities intended to reduce the environmental impact of energy development and usage across the U.S.

In response to the bills, a coalition of 15 environmental groups sent a letter to state lawmakers Sept. 29, urging them to leverage the federal funds available in the two bills.

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Chief among their concerns was the impacts to local communities supported by energy development, such as in the southeast New Mexico Permian Basin oil and gas fields or in the northwest Farmington area where the San Juan Generating Station coal plant was poised to close.

The groups argued lawmakers should take advantage of federal loan opportunities in the Inflation Reduction Act to support utilities investing in new energy technologies and to support worker training.

“New federal laws offer billions in funding targeted specifically toward communities experiencing the energy transition first-hand, such as communities that host a coal-fired power plant scheduled to close,” the letter read.

“Successfully implementing the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will require coordination and cooperation across all levels of government.”

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Electric vehicles were also incentivized in the bills, and the coalition called on lawmakers and local governments to seek out the offered funds and support electrification of government fleets.

New Mexico is underway with developing a statewide network of electric vehicle charging stations, using $38 million earmarked in the infrastructure bill. The State’s plan was recently approved, and funding was expected to be deployed later this year.

“State and local governments should take advantage of new incentives and funding sources to electrify their fleets, while expanding convenient networks of public and private charging stations, in partnership with electric utilities,” the letter read.

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Other provisions in the bill could support more renewable energy use and development, the letter read, while expanding the electrical grid to support power generated from new sources like wind and solar.

The groups also pointed to incentives offered for increasing energy efficiency in buildings via electrification, asserting New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) should seek the state’s share of a $4.3 billion federal rebate program offered in the legislation.

“Local governments can increase the value of this effort by encouraging property owners to plan and carry out building efficiency upgrades and by using new federal funds to support the adoption of modern, high-efficiency building codes,” the letter read.

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A $4.5 billion federal program to electrify homes could also provide funds to New Mexico through EMNRD, the letter argued, which could reduce pollution and energy costs.

The letter called on local governments to also urge residents to adopt more efficient, less combustive appliance to support such efforts.

Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club said embracing an energy transition in New Mexico could both protect its environment by curbing pollution, and insulate the state from volatility in oil and gas markets.

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“Climate solutions are economic solutions,” she said. “But we need our elected officials to steer funds to programs that benefit our climate, our communities and our families for our vision of a sustainable economy to truly take shape.”

New Mexico Voices for Children Executive Director Amber Wallin said the two federal laws presented opportunities to advance initiatives aimed at addressing climate change at both the state and local levels.

“With new federal funds available to state and local leaders, New Mexico has an exciting opportunity to invest in the health and well-being of our children, our climate, and our economy,” Wallin said.

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Caroline Spears, executive director of national non-profit group Climate Cabinet Action said voters in all U.S. states should focus in November midterm election on candidates’ decision-making related to pollution initiatives and climate change.

In November, New Mexicans will choose between incumbent Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Republican challenger, former meteorologist Mark Ronchetti.

Environmental and energy issues became a key aspect of the gubernatorial race as Lujan Grisham touted her record in policy like the Energy Transition Act, aimed to reduce carbon-intensive energy sources, while Ronchetti said he was supportive of expanded oil and gas production.

“With the recent passage of both the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Acts (IIJA), states will have more power than ever to implement the key investments needed to decarbonize the energy and transportation sectors,” she said in a statement.

“And with the midterm elections around the corner, we hope Americans take a good look at who they are sending to the Statehouse to represent them.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: How could recent federal laws aid NM in shift from fossil fuels?