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One of the central tenets changing the conversation around climate change policy is a concept referred to as “just transition.” Just transition refers to the understanding that communities who have historically borne the brunt of impacts from climate change need to have an active role in shaping the energy transition. This means that they must be involved in determining policy solutions while simultaneously being the focus of resources designed to limit the impacts of moving our economy away from carbon emissions.

These values translate into fairly specific and definable problems to solve. First, how do you meaningfully engage communities around policy solutions for their future when they’re trying to make ends meet? Second, what do you do about the people in communities almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels extraction or fossil fuel based energy production? This isn’t just about the workers in the oil fields or coal plants. It’s also a question of everyone employed in that community that indirectly relies on that industry.

In 2019, following passage of the Energy Transition Act, a small working group that had come together to negotiate language around community transition funding decided to carry on as a coalition – becoming Power4NM. This coalition is composed of community organizing groups representing frontline communities and environmental groups. The mission is to ensure that community transition is a part of the climate conversation at every level. It’s not always an easy conversation! The science around greenhouse gas emissions reductions and short and medium-term community needs aren’t always perfectly aligned. 

This issue came to the forefront in the 2023 legislative session. Power4NM worked throughout the summer and fall of 2022 to craft legislation with sponsors Rep. Angelica Rubio and Kristina Ortez that would create an “Economic Transition Division” within the state’s Economic Development Department (EDD). The bill was introduced in the ‘23 legislative session as HB 188. Not long after its introduction, it became clear the bill wouldn’t have the support from EDD that it needed to pass. An alternative pathway emerged with the idea of combining HB 188 with a rumored but not yet introduced or even circulated draft of an “Advanced Energy Technology” bill. The sponsors of that bill – Reps. Nathan Small and Meredith Dixon – met with Reps. Rubio and Rep. Ortez to negotiate putting the two bills together. 

The resulting compromise was introduced on February 16 as HB 12. It would have created two new divisions in EDD for Economic Transition and the Advanced Energy Technology Division (AETD). The enabling language for AETD had definitions of “Advanced Energy Technology” that included controversial and climate-risky concepts, such as carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen, and nuclear. These hot-button energy concepts entertained by the AETD were unacceptable. Environmental and community groups around the state were unified opposing the inclusion of these pieces into the mission for a new division. After review and internal consultation, Power4NM pulled support for HB 12 and the bill stalled. 

All was not lost, however! Throughout this process, roughly $50 million in the budget (HB 2) was tagged to implement HB 12. While the bill stalled, the money carried forward in HB 2, and negotiations continued. At the end of the session, some of that $50 million was earmarked for senior staff positions in EDD to address the economic transition issue. Thanks to the hard work of Power4NM members, a silver lining was attained in what was otherwise a frustrating and divisive legislative session for energy and community transition.

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Tell your Legislators that you ‘know the score’

One of the best ways to influence the voting records of your elected officials is to communicate regularly with them. If your legislators scored well, it’s important to thank them and to support them. If you feel you weren’t well-represented by your legislators’ votes, it’s important to hold them accountable by letting them know what you think about their votes. The Scorecard is your key to staying informed on your legislators votes and getting in touch with them.

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Whether you’re congratulating them on their score or expressing your disappointment, be direct, courteous and polite.

The most important part is letting them know that you are paying close attention to how they vote or, in the case of the Governor, what actions she takes on legislation that affects our air, land, and water.

Calling your legislator directly and sending letters through regular mail remain by far the most effective ways to communicate with your legislators.

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor can always be contacted at the State Capitol. Except during the legislative session, state legislators should be contacted in their home districts. You can get their contact information by clicking on their name on the current Legislators page.

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