In the decades before the passage of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws in the 1960s and ‘70s, our communities were fighting to protect their lands and waters, saw rivers catch fire, and fought to protect their children from smog and chemical releases. Their organizing and activism is what led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the laws that protect our land, water and air today.
It is because of these laws and the countless federal, state, tribal and local entities, our acequias and land grants, and generations of organizers and stewards on the ground, that our communities are able today to drink clean water, breathe clean air, and know that our lands and waters will be protected for generations to come.
Of course, there is still so much work to be done, especially when it comes to protecting our precious waters and ensuring our communities have a seat at the table. As a water resources professional, I have worked on these issues for years before being elected to Congress, and I know that water is life. Unfortunately, our rights to clean water are currently under attack in Congress and the Supreme Court, which attempts to gut the Clean Water Act and could impact over 90% of New Mexico’s rivers and streams. The fight continues.
At the same time, we are rising to meet the growing climate crisis with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. Together, these bills represent the largest investment in climate action ever in American history. These bills will bring huge wins for our communities in New Mexico. As much as $2 billion in climate action funding is headed our way.
If we work together, across every community, level of government, and our private and nonprofits sectors — New Mexico can lead the way in creating a new clean energy future. These investments will create good-paying jobs that will diversify our economy and pave the path to a zero-emission economy. We are already seeing how these bills are investing in our beloved state.
San Ildefonso Pueblo and Carlsbad are getting enhanced air-quality monitoring equipment. Gallup and eastern Navajo communities are getting long-overdue water connections — and our state just celebrated over $9 million in wildfire resilience funding to help keep our rural communities safe. This is just the beginning, and there are so many more investments to come, with the potential to help every community across our state. And, it is up to us to harness these resources to create jobs and transform our infrastructure and economy with our communities in the face of climate change.
In honor of Earth Day, it is important we remember that this movement began by and for our communities to meet the urgent needs of the time, against what seemed like impossible odds. And, just like our communities who worked for these victories before us, our work is to carry it forward for future generations to come.
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