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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It’s a win for the Land of Enchantment’s air, thanks to a coalition of over 35 organizations across the state who supported clean car rules. Over the past year, the New Mexico Clean Cars Clean Air Coalition, with the help of New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) hustled to make their voices heard. They got a thumbs up just after public hearings on May 4 and 5, as the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board and the City of Albuquerque – Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board voted to adopt The Clean Car Rule. 

“New Mexico’s adoption of the Clean Car Rule is an important first step toward shifting away from fossil-fueled vehicles that contribute to climate change and the air pollution that disproportionately impacts low-income communities located along highways and near industrial areas,” explained Aaron Kressig, transportation electrification manager at Western Resource Advocates.

Electric Vehicles are safer, more affordable and will support a healthier economy in New Mexico. In 2018 Mayor Tim Keller signed the Climate Mayors pledge, committing the City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In early 2019 New Mexico joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 23 governors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 – a goal consistent with the Paris Agreement. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order directing state agencies to develop a State Climate Strategy and identify policies to reach these greenhouse gas goals. 

Electric vehicles are critical to our climate and to ending dependence on oil and gas “Advanced Clean Cars rules will increase availability of zero- and low-emission vehicles and spur investment in the charging infrastructure that rural New Mexicans need while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Samantha Kao, climate & energy advocate at Conservation Voters New Mexico said about the victory. 

Transportation is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions with related pollutants linked to many adverse health effects, including decreases in lung function, inflammation of airways, aggravated asthma, increased risk of cancer, damage to the immune system and neurological, reproductive, developmental and other health problems. 

“Clean Cars rules will open new doors to cleaner air and healthier communities in New Mexico by reducing dirty vehicle pollution and addressing climate change,” says Liliana Castillo, deputy director at CAVU (Climate Advocates Voces Unidas). 

The Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) of the Clean Car Standards ensures that automakers make increasing numbers of plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles available for sale in New Mexico. The Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards in the rule require automakers to manufacture cars that emit fewer greenhouse gasses and harmful air pollutants. 

“These new standards will set us on a path toward cleaner, pollution-free air in the Land of Enchantment and make electric vehicles more accessible to New Mexico families looking to save money at the pump and do their part to fight climate change.” says Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. 

The new rule will go into effect for model year 2026, arriving in showrooms in 2025. With expected incentives in the approved rule, electric vehicles could begin to fill showrooms as early as July 2022. 

Dr. Virginia Necochea, Executive Director of NMELC, believes we have an obligation and responsibility to current and future generations to ensure the necessary policy changes now to avoid the worst aspects of the climate crisis. “We applaud the administrations of Gov. Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque’s Mayor Tim Keller for taking this important step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 26% by 2025 in line with the Paris Agreement,” she said.