As much of the country suffers from the polar vortex that has brought record lows and winter storms, legislators at the Roundhouse are examining the Climate Solutions Act. House Bill 9 looks at New Mexico’s issues with climate change while implementing economic reform in addressing the state’s energy consumption. For Your New Mexico Government’s continuing coverage of the legislative session KUNM’s Khalil Ekulona spoke with Laura Paskus from New Mexico PBS.
LAURA PASKUS: One of the things that I think you and I have talked about in the past and is a really big point of discussion right now is New Mexico needs to diversify its economy, we need to diversify our economy away from reliance on fossil fuels, not just because that's an industry that is causing climate change. But it's also an industry that does not have a strong long term outlook. And so New Mexico, you know, we've kind of been kicking this idea around for about 40 years now that we need to diversify our economy. But it's been a hard thing for New Mexico to let go of. You know, this is like this really exciting moment in history where we see the consequences of what will happen to the state if we don't diversify, that the fossil fuel industry is not a sustainable industry for many different reasons. And we really need to be thinking about this, and acting right now.
KUNM: 2020, with this shutdown of basically the global economy or the extreme slowdown, it really changed the power that the oil and gas industry had globally. Do you see any of those effects here in the state?
PASKUS: I think COVID really also exposed the vulnerability of that industry in that industry's reliance on our constant need for continued consumption. I just, I know like these are really difficult times and I never mean to take away from the very real hardships that families and communities are facing. But there are so many exciting opportunities for us to think about changing the ways that we have operated our societies and our communities over the past century. You know, one of the things that I really think is interesting about the Climate Solutions Act, this House Bill 9, is the sponsors are talking about all these different aspects, including how to protect frontline communities, how to transition away from oil and gas jobs into other sustainable jobs. They're talking about things on the mitigation side, in terms of how do we cut our greenhouse gases, so that we stop accelerating climate change, but they're also looking at adaptation efforts? And how we deal with things like water scarcity, particularly in rural communities and communities at risk.
KUNM: Now, the climate solutions act calls for a council to head up a lot of these efforts and initiatives who makes up this council?
PASKUS: That's a good question. It would be a part of one of the state agencies, the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department, but it would include this all the cabinet secretaries from state agencies, and advisory members from the state land office, and then also tribal governments, local governments, and then different people who are experts who live within impacted communities, it would be a broad membership.
KUNM: So it seems like everyone they can think of is included, as you know, the climate affects all of us. Let me ask where does New Mexico rank in climate change emissions?
PASKUS: I can't answer that definitively. But we are among the states that is definitely contributing to climate change. So yeah, as an oil producer, as a natural gas producer, having tens of thousands of wells across our state. We are a contributor, and we're also one of the places experiencing climate change at an accelerated pace.
Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage comes from the New Mexico Local News Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners like you, with support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.