What America Can Learn from New Mexico

Today U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) stood on the floor of the Senate and delivered his first speech as the newly elected Senator from New Mexico. The first floor speech for any member of Congress is a monumental occasion and sets the course for his or her term of office. While Senator Heinrich had a plethora of topics to choose from, he chose to focus on energy and climate change and how his state has and will shape our future.

Not Surprised

Senator Heinrich is a champion for conservation and energy innovation. We knew that when we supported him in his bid for the U.S. Senate in the 2012 election. So today’s speech came as no surprise to us at the Action Fund.

Senator Heinrich shared many of these thoughts with the Action Fund when he sat down for an interview for our Running Clean: Good Policy, Good Politics report and video series.

Heinrich_interview1

(Click on picture to view video)

In his interview Senator Heinrich said, “I think it’s important for people to realize that this new cleaner energy economy is coming. And it’s not only critical to addressing climate change, but there are going to be winners and losers within that economy. And there are going to be people and countries who lead and there will be other countries that are going to be following and catching up. I want to make sure that not only New Mexico, but the United States is a leader in that. That we realize the jobs and the layers of jobs from the people who manufacture these technologies to the people who install it, to the people who maintain these technologies. You want to maximize your economic impact as part of this new economy by having all of those things done here. We need to move our energy portfolio in a cleaner, more domestic direction over time. It’s not about being right; it’s about moving the country forward.”

New Mexico as National Leader

In his speech today, Senator Heinrich spoke to the fact that New Mexico has built its economy around innovation and technology. Collaborations between the state’s national labs, research universities, defense installations and private sector companies have created jobs and lead the way on developing new frontiers.

He went on to remind everyone that while we are entitled to our own set of opinions, none of us are entitled to our own set of facts, especially in the context of climate change. He urged the Senate to better use facts, data and science to address the challenges we are facing as a nation as our climate continues to change. And in a bold statement, he called on his fellow Senate members to think big and to commit to solving climate change within the decade.

Refreshing

In today’s political environment, isn’t it refreshing to see a candidate elected on his principles and then sticking to them once they arrive in Washington, DC? Senator Heinrich is part of a new crop of leaders from a state ready to lead on progressive energy and climate policy that will protect our health, environment and create jobs. This type of courageous and inspiring leadership will be our nation’s path to energy and climate security and economic prosperity.

 

 

NRDC Action Fund & ProgressNow New Mexico Take to the ‘Air’ to Support Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate in New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Melissa Harrison, NRDC Action Fund, 202-486-1905, mharrison@nrdc.org

Pat Davis, ProgressNow New Mexico, 505-750-0012, pat@progressnownm.org

Special Message in the Sky for College Football Spectators

WASHINGTON/LAS CRUCES (September 21, 2012) – On September 22, football fans attending the in-state rivalry football game between New Mexico and New Mexico State weren’t just watching the action on the field. They were also treated to a unique ‘pass play’ in the sky as a plane flew over the stadium with a special message about Heather Wilson and her ties to big oil.

NRDC Action Fund and ProgressNow New Mexico sponsored the plane with lighted messaging urging voters to support Martin Heinrich in his bid for U.S. Senate. Messages like: Heather Wilson: Scoring TDs 4 polluters since 1998 scorlled by spectators as the plane flew overhead. They can also visit www.WilsonWater.info to learn more about how Heather Wilson chose to side with polluters and their big checks rather than the health and safety of New Mexico residents.

“Heather Wilson’s actions against protecting the drinking water of New Mexico families are so egregious they deserve to be written in the sky so everyone can see them,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “We supported Martin Heinrich early in this race because we know he is a true environmental champion who will stand up to corporate polluters. New Mexico voters continue to say they want a Senator who will protect their precious resources and their health. Heinrich’s record on these issues is impeccable and that’s why he’s leading in the polls. We will continue to take this message to the voters until Election Day, although next time it may be via the ground.”

###

The NRDC Action Fund’s mission is to achieve the passage of legislation that jump-starts the clean energy economy, reduces pollution, and sustains vibrant communities for all Americans. Now is the time for leadership and action from our elected officials — our current goal is a comprehensive clean energy policy that will repower our economy and fuel our future. www.nrdcactionfund.org

ProgressNow New Mexico is a non-partisan non-profit advocacy group uniting and enhancing New Mexico’s progressive voice. ProgressNowNM.org

Note to reporters/editors: The NRDC Action Fund is an affiliated but separate organization from the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, the NRDC Action Fund engages in various advocacy and political activities for which the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, faces certain legal limitations or restrictions. News and information released by the NRDC Action Fund needs to be identified as from the “NRDC Action Fund.” The “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund” is incorrect. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the NRDC Action Fund can not be used interchangeably.  Also please note that the word “National” does not appear in Natural Resources Defense Council.

Lie Down with Dogs

As a child, I always heard my parents echo the saying: “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.” That’s the Spanish idiom for “A man is known by the company he keeps” or the less refined, “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” So this campaign season I’m paying very close attention to the company being kept by our candidates.

I’ve already found many of Mitt Romney’s choices to be, at best, questionable. What some of his friends signal is flat out frightening, from Big Oil to the Koch brothers. The convention this week gives us an even further look into who counts themselves (or would like to count themselves) among Mitt’s friends and therefore, a glimpse into what a Romney presidency could look like.

As a Hispanic voter, I’ll admit the stage is seductive. Having several notable Hispanics on the agenda does, at first blush, seem to say, “The GOP cares about Hispanics.” Unfortunately a closer look reveals that heritage in no way means that you represent the interests of the majority of the U.S. Hispanic community.

Just look at one of last night’s featured speakers, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. Governor Sandoval has publicly supported the Arizona law which compels local and state law enforcement to question the identity and immigration status of people if there is reason to think they are not here legally, a law also favored by that GOP darling Marco Rubio, also among the GOP cast for the convention.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, often called the ultimate immigrant success story, has similarly turned her back on Hispanics, promising in her 2010 campaign to repeal a law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses. In fact, Ms. Martinez will be in charge of delivering the party platform on immigration, written by none other than Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration bill and a key author of the GOP platform on immigration.

But even as a Hispanic voter, my concerns go far beyond immigration and run the gamut from women’s rights to environmental protection where, once again, a look at Governor Martinez’s friends tells you a lot about what she really values.

In her short tenure, she has worked hard to protect Big Oil and the dairy/livestock industry as they threaten groundwater and New Mexico’s treasured natural resources.  She has fought regulations to prevent massive industrial dairy farms, known as CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) from dumping huge amounts of waste where it can leach into groundwater supplies (currently legal in NM, gross!); stopped regulations to keep oil and gas drilling waste out of groundwater, and kept EPA from requiring modern pollution controls on the dirty San Juan power plant, to name a few.

Why? Clearly this in no way benefits New Mexicans but one look at her friends in Big oil and the dairy/livestock industry gives you the answer.  And those friends have showered more than $1 million in campaign contributions on her.

So as we watch the convention this week, let’s remember that like candidate Romney, some other featured Republicans clearly care much more about protecting their friends than taking care of the people they represent.

Republican Rising Stars: What Lies Behind the GOP Presidential Ticket

The third day of the Republican National Convention features speeches from some of the GOP’s up-and-coming superstars. They may be the party’s hope for the future. But when it comes to stopping air and water pollution, these young guns want to send America back to a dirty and dangerous past. Gov. Susana Martinez and Sen. Rand Paul are both striking examples of young lawmakers who have answered the call of wealthy polluters like old pros.

Of course, this is the party that’s selected Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan for its presidential ticket. These are the candidates whose energy plans would end incentives for clean, renewable energy while handing control over America’s energy policy to the fossil fuel industry and granting big oil $40 billion in government subsidies. Should we be surprised?

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has the plum primetime speaking slot at the convention tonight. It’s no wonder she’s a rising star in the GOP, because in her two short years as governor, she’s made herself an all-star when it comes to doing the bidding of big polluters. At home in New Mexico, she’s unleashing a tide of oil, gas, and livestock pollution into the state’s groundwater and keeping the smog and haze flowing from one of the region’s dirtiest coal power plants.

As governor, Martinez has done everything in her power to let Big Oil and other industry pollute arid New Mexico’s precious groundwater, which is the source of drinking water for 90 percent of New Mexicans. Adding insult to injury, she’s accepted more than a million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, and a quarter million from big dairy and livestock interests.

Upon taking office in 2011, Martinez immediately went to bat for Big Oil to eliminate clean water protections meant to keep oil and gas drilling waste from poisoning water supplies. New Mexico’s “pit rule” requires companies to line drilling waste pits so toxins can’t leak into the soil and water and holds companies accountable for cleaning up contamination from pits. It was adopted after more than 400 complaints of groundwater contamination from drilling waste.

But the oil and gas industry wanted the pit rule gone, and Martinez fought tooth and nail to simply wipe it off the books. When that didn’t work, she welcomed industry groups to rewrite the rule themselves. As a leaked industry memo put it, “[Martinez’s] new Secretary of Energy  & Minerals is receptive to considering an industry-written rule to replace the current rule.” The legal and regulatory battle to keep drilling waste out of New Mexico’s groundwater continues today.

Martinez was also eager to help factory farms get around efforts to keep dairy waste out of groundwater supplies. The state’s “dairy rule” requires dairy waste pits to be lined with impermeable, plastic liners, and set back from important water resources. When it was adopted in 2010, two-thirds of groundwater around New Mexico’s big dairy farms was already contaminated by nitrates, a pollutant that can cause “blue baby syndrome” at high levels.  {I assume Health has signed off on this.} The rule had been finalized, but not published, when Martinez took office—so she simply ordered that it not be published, preventing it from taking effect.

Water supplies left defenseless against pollution seeping from gigantic manure ponds and pits of toxic sludge: it’s a kick in the face to a state with a heritage of managing limited water supplies wisely.  But wait—there’s more.

When it comes to protecting people from air pollution, Martinez has also sided with big polluters. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered northwestern New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station to clean up its smog pollution by installing up-to-date pollution control technology. One of the Southwest’s dirtiest power plants, San Juan is responsible for an estimated 33 premature deaths and 600 asthma attacks each year. Its haze is heavy enough to obscure views at the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park.  But rather than siding with the health of local communities and strong enforcement of the Clean Air Act, Martinez sided with the utilty. Her administration continues to fight the cleanup in federal court.

Sen. Rand Paul, likewise, has already made himself infamous as a friend to polluters after two years in office. His signature effort has been to champion the REINS Act (Regulations of the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2011), legislation designed to set up enormous hurdles against safeguards protecting public health, the environment, and food safety. Paul’s vision is to create a firewall against progress. As NRDC’s John Walke put it, if this bill were passed, “either the House or Senate could take out health and safety protections that disgruntled corporations and Tea Party activists despise with the single barrel of a double-barreled twenty gauge shotgun.”

There is little question that congressional friends of polluters would have used Paul’s REINS Act, if passed, to try to shut down environmental and public health advances like the EPA’s mercury and air toxics rule, which will save 17,000 lives a year, or the new federal Clean Cars fuel efficiency standards, which will reduce America’s dependence on oil while creating 500,000 new jobs. Indeed, the House sponsor of the REINS Act, Rep. Geoff David (R-KY), agreed that the bill is meant to “stifle the EPA.”

So, this is tonight’s rogues’ gallery on the big stage at the Republican Convention. Only, sad to say, they haven’t gone rogue at all. Susana Martinez and Rand Paul, with their short but insistent careers moving America backward on the environment, were hand-picked by their party to speak tonight. That should give us all pause about the state of the Republican party and what its candidates have in store for the American people.

 

Mitt Romney is Out of Step with the American People on Energy Policy

Last year New Mexico was No. 1 in the nation for installing solar power.

It is one of the top states in the country for wind energy.

New Mexicans also benefit from energy efficiency programs. With $8.9 billion in annual energy expenditures each year, energy efficiency programs could save New Mexico residents some serious money – and reduce the amount of toxic power plant emissions they have to breathe as well.

Yet what’s the crux of the energy vision Mitt Romney laid out in New Mexico today?

He wants to get rid of the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that are employing New Mexicans and saving them money.  His solution?  Pretend it’s 1900.  More drilling, more fossil fuels, more of the same.

In disclosing his so-called energy plan in Hobbs, N.M. today, Romney didn’t even bother to mention that one of our country’s most significant energy savings programs is about to be finalized as early as this week.

The Obama Administration is about to implement new clean car standards that will push average auto mileage to 54.5 per gallon by 2025, saving consumers around $8,000 on gas during the life of a vehicle.

In New Mexico, that also will mean residents will save a total of 135 million gallons of fuel and $575 million when fully implemented – not to mention reducing thousands of tons of tailpipe carbon pollution each year, according to a NRDC analysis released just this week. For a dog’s-eye view of what these standards will mean for America, make sure to check out: http://www.doublethempg.com/  

Few issues illustrate the stark differences between Mitt Romney and President Obama like their views on where to take America on energy.

If your desire is to:

  • move America backward;
  •  keep us shackled to Big Oil;
  • forever be dependent on foreign oil supplies and the wild price swings in the international oil market; and
  • leave the planet in terrible shape for our children.

Then Romney’s your man.

If you want to move America forward, and keep developing the growing clean energy economy that’s benefitting New Mexico and every other state in the country – then remember what President Obama has done so far.

As Bloomberg News reported this week, electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar has increased by 73 percent since President Obama took office. President Obama’s clean energy programs have helped create an estimated 2.7 million clean economy jobs, according to the Brookings Institution. Those are real jobs, providing real paychecks to real Americans, many of whom live and work in New Mexico.

If Congress ignores Mitt Romney and reauthorizes the Production Tax Credit that has already created 75,000 jobs in the wind energy industry (and that many Senate Republicans support), America could get as much as 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030.

If Romney and the GOP would stop trying to denigrate and decimate America’s solar industry, we could get as much as 25% of our energy from rooftop solar panels alone in 40 states (51% in Nevada and 52% in California). Instead of focusing on the failures of a few companies, they should be noting the enormous growth in solar overall.  Ideology has blinded them, and they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Mitt Romney is simply out of step with the American people on energy policy, as with so much else.   In survey after survey, Americans overwhelmingly say they want Congress and the White House to do more to increase clean energy sources in this country, and wean us off of fossil fuels. Those opinions do not differ in New Mexico, which is why we support environmental champion Martin Heinrich in his bid for U.S. Senate. Increasing clean energy sources is good for our economy, good for our health and strengthens our national security.

Either Mitt Romney doesn’t get this message from the American people or our voices are being drowned out by the millions of dollars in campaign contributions from dirty polluters.

It’s your choice. Which America do you want?

Mitt Romney Energy Plan Fact Sheet