Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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At a time when New Mexico families and communities are experiencing substantial impacts from climate change, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) proposed budget for the 2022 legislative session falls short of environmental groups’ expectations. They say it fails to address the severity of the climate crisis by investing in fossil fuel projects and underfunding critical programming. They feel it also radically curtails environmental regulators’ ability to monitor the climate crisis by cutting their essential budgets. 

The $8.46 billion budget plan includes several disturbing aspects for environmentalists so they are speaking out. The $150 million allocated in the budget for hydrogen hub projects with no current safeguards or commitments of protection from environmental impacts has over 30 environmental groups just saying “No!” (See “Hydrogen Is No ‘Silver Bullet'” on p in this issue.)

Ben Shelton, CVNM Political and Policy Director considers the 2022 LFC budget proposal request insufficient, particularly in light of a windfall year for both state and federal dollars, noting that the budget’s climate approach falls short of the state’s needs. 

“Last year the Governor announced at Speaker Egolf’s climate summit that 2022 was the year to begin the next phase of climate action, and the 2022 executive budget request reflects the beginning of that commitment. The LFC budget strips far too much of it out. We urge the House Appropriations Committee to act quickly to ensure that New Mexicans’ overwhelming interest in climate action is clearly represented in HB 2,” Shelton said 

The proposed budget significantly cuts general fund recommendations for the New Mexico Environment (NME) and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Departments (EMNRD) – roughly 70-80% lower than the requested budget. That’s a chunk of missing change for departments charged with overseeing the cleanup from oil and gas plus enforcement of new rules and regulations for the industry’s pollution issues. NNME and EMNRD also attend to a whole group of other issues around land, water and air.

“The legislature’s budget does not reflect New Mexicans’ values and instead keeps New Mexicans tied to boom-and-bust jobs that threaten their health and harm the climate. We urge the legislature to increase funding for New Mexico’s state agencies so that they can protect our air, land, water and climate, and create sustainable jobs for all New Mexicans that protect workers and their families,” said Kurt Gutjahr, CAVU executive director.

Amigos Bravos Executive Director Joe Zupan urged the legislature to fully fund conservation priorities, particularly as they relate to climate change response and protection of New Mexico’s watersheds. “We noted with disappointment a rather large discrepancy between the Governor’s proposed budget and the LFC budget. We urge the legislature to take another look at funding these critical needs.” 

LFC’s budget proposal, the groups say, lacks investments that support New Mexico families’ transition to a clean-energy workforce and does not offer savings on energy costs after home weatherization. 

Sierra Club – Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman puts the problem in no uncertain terms: “The solutions to the climate crisis rely on economic investment and innovation. But the legislative budget fails our environment and our communities. We hoped for an ‘earthshot’ investment for the planet but instead, we have agencies without the resources to inspect and enforce environmental regulations. LFC’s plan for economic diversification utterly lacks environmental protection efforts. It’s time to invest in a livable planet and in New Mexico.”

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