The Mark UP

What Role Will the Environment Play in the U.S. Senate Debate in New Mexico?

The candidates for New Mexico’s open Senate seat meet in their first debate this Thursday night.  Former Republican U.S. Representative Heather Wilson is vying with Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-1) for the seat.

As Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta launches hundreds of hot air balloons into the clear blue sky of New Mexico this week, will moderator Dick Knipfing question Heather Wilson about her environmental positions on clear air and clean water?

During Heather Wilson’s term in the House of Representatives from 1998 to 2009, she voted four times to shield producers of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE—a toxic fuel additive to gasoline and potential human carcinogen) from lawsuits against producers who contaminated water in 30 locations around New Mexico. This included public water wells that supplied the Edgewood Elementary School in Edgewood, NM, and water systems that served over 39,000 residents.

Meanwhile, Wilson accepted $61,500 in contributions from the three major producers of MTBE sued by the state in the years surrounding her votes.  She also accepted contributions from other oil producers and refiners who used MTBE.

Wilson has cited Rep. Heinrich’s “extreme environmental positions” in several of her negative ads including one paid for by the Chamber of Commerce. 

In an interview on PBS affiliate KNME last week, she was very clear about her stance opposing Heinrich’s votes against the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline and against taxpayer subsidies and regulatory breaks for big oil and gas.  She supports the Keystone pipeline even though it would provide no jobs in New Mexico and would not be a source of oil for the state. She said that “clean” coal is a secure, low-cost and stable source of American energy.

Heinrich’s ads have correctly characterized Wilson as a candidate lost in the past—the past of toxic and polluting fossil fuels—and out of step with the clean energy opportunities for a state whose people clearly support the clean energy revolution with many solar, wind and geothermal projects already underway on private and public land.

As thousands of people gather to celebrate the beauty of New Mexico’s skies this week, voters should petition KRQE-TV 13 and anchor Dick Knipfing to address Heather Wilson’s record on preserving New Mexico’s fragile environment.

Democratic candidate U. S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) and Republican candidate Heather Wilson debate in Albuquerque on KRQE News 13, at 6:00 p.m. Mountain time.