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.

Battle lines are being drawn and it’s time to choose your side. Will the NM legislature pass a Joint Resolution based on the Green Amendment to amend the New Mexico Constitution in order to add environmental rights, or will the pet project of Governor MLG – O&G Hydrogen Hubs — prevail? Don’t miss this fight if you have kids and grandchildren.

The Opponents: “GREEN” v. “HUBS

The fight could get down and dirty as the stakes are high. Both the Green and Hubs stalled in the 2022 Legislative session last year. Each side has had a year to contemplate, rebrand, reorganize and try to plan how to navigate the upcoming 2023 Legislative session to score a win.

HUBS

In one corner is Hubs working hard on its “to do” list. O&G has a lot of money to spend on convincing the public that their Hydrogen is green — it is not — and that the state can become a hub to manufacture it. O&G lobbyists wine and dine and make campaign contributions to try to sway legislators to their side. Their PR campaign says we need O&G in all its forms; they are the money bags of the state. Their battle cry is that without them, the state is doomed financially. Their green-washed message flies everywhere: they even sponsored the popular Hot Air Balloon Festival last year. The only thing green about a Hydrogen Hub is money, and it looks like they are hoping the state budget is their Ace in the Hole to make New Mexico a hub for hydrogen manufacture.

The “Blue” hydrogen an O&G Hydrogen Hub produces is an energy source that makes hydrogen by using the methane in natural gas. It is being lauded by many, including Governor MLG, as a clean, green, economy-boosting energy to help reduce global warming. However, Cornell and Stanford University researchers say blue hydrogen can harm the climate even more than burning fossil fuel does.

GREEN

In the opposite corner we have Green, a joint resolution to add constitutional environmental rights; she has been gathering her forces and she’s angry. She is looking ahead seven generations and further. She is fed up with her Land of Enchantment being the “poster child” for the Environmental Sacrifice Zones in the country. She doesn’t have a huge bank roll to advertise and advance herself. Even so, there is a growing coalition of legislators, community, faith, environmental and indigenous leaders, organizations and individuals, pledging their intention to co-sponsor and support an environmental rights amendment to New Mexico’s constitution in 2023.

Legislators galore supported the Green Amendment last year and are once again stepping up to the plate.  A Green Amendment Joint Resolution to amend the New Mexico Constitution in order to add environmental rights was pre-filed by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Rep. Joanne Ferrary (Dist. 37) on Jan. 5 with the House version anticipated shortly. Other legislators supporting the amendment include: Sen. Harold Pope, Jr., Sen. Shannon Pinto, Rep. Tara Lujan, Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, Sen. Carrie Hamblen, Sen. Bill Soules, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, and Rep. Debbie Sariñana, among others.

What Would a Green Amendment Mean for New Mexicans?

The pre-filed resolution proposes amending the State Constitution Bill of Rights in order to recognize the rights of present and future generations to clean and healthy air, water, soil and environment; a stable climate; and self-sustaining ecosystems. The resolution mandates these rights be protected equally for all communities regardless of race, ethnicity, tribal membership status, socioeconomics, gender or geography. The Joint Resolution also creates an enforceable trustee obligation on government officials to protect the state’s natural resources.

As the lead Senate sponsor of the Joint Resolution, Sen. Sedillo Lopez said “Clean air, land and water and equity in sharing the burdens of pollution should be the official policy of our beautiful, but environmentally fragile, state. It’s time!”

Rep. Ferrary, who leads the proposal in the House of Representatives explained. “Many groups representing different cultures, people of color and geographic areas of our great State, have come together to design and write this proposed Environmental Rights Constitutional Amendment. We feel this Resolution reflects the environmental concerns and protections that we as New Mexicans need for a healthy environment.”

The concept of constitutional environmental rights already exists in Pennsylvania, Montana and, in 2021, in New York. Legislators in Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey, Delaware, Iowa, Maine and Maryland, among other states, are also advancing proposals. If the Joint Resolution secures a majority vote of support in both the Senate and House of Representatives, it will be placed on the next general election ballot in 2023 for a vote by the people of New Mexico.  

The “Mother” Returns

Maya van Rossum, the “Mother” of the Green Amendment, will be in New Mexico for the entire 2023 Legislative session. Rossum is skilled as an author, environmental attorney, strategist, community organizer, facilitator, coalition builder and manager. She travels the country supporting passage of constitutional environmental rights in state constitutions. Rossum has vowed to return to New Mexico each legislative session until a Green Amendment is passed here.  

The Paper. caught up with Rossum in Florida where she is supporting understanding of a Green Amendment and promoting her book, The Green Amendment: The People’s Fight For A Clean, Safe & Healthy Environment.

“My goal is to be there to help spread the word about the New Mexico Green Amendment: what it is, what it does, why having this kind of constitutional protection really makes a difference for protecting the environment, for securing environmental justice, and helping to end environmental racism and for protecting the state’s natural resources for both present and future generations,” Rossum told The Paper.

Rossum said she wants to make sure that when they are speaking about the New Mexico Green Amendment, people are coming to the conversation from a place of “accurate understanding, rather than listening to the oppositional rhetoric and the misinformation from the opposition that they know is already being peddled.” Rossum said she is open to speaking to any group or coalition about the Green Amendment. Contact her at maya@forthegenerations.org.