January 18, 2024 via Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico — When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the words “climate change” it came in off-the-cuff responses to protesters disrupting the address to both chambers at the opening ceremony of the 30-day legislative session Tuesday.
Those two words were not in the prepared remarks issued by the governor’s office ahead of the New Mexico State of the State.
Protesters interrupted Lujan Grisham’s speech three different times from the gallery, resulting in the ejection from the Roundhouse of several dozen people by the Sergeants-at-arms, and New Mexico State Police. Protesters tried to draw connections between the climate crisis, outsize interests of wealthy interests in state policy and war in Gaza.
Two protesters stood and said, “We do not want New Mexico to fuel the climate crisis,” in the opening minutes of the governor’s speech.
“I hope they’re going to be happier later when we talk about all the climate change and renewable energy that we’re going to lean into,” Lujan Grisham responded from the floor.
The first climate topic was concerns about water supplies.
Lujan Grisham asked lawmakers to approve $500 million in severance tax bonds over the next two years for investment in companies to treat brackish (salty) water and produced water, which is the liquid waste from oil and gas exploration. Lujan Grisham also celebrated movement on the Gallup Water supply project, a federal effort 15 years in the making to provide water for 250,000 people, including more people on the Navajo Nation.
Much of the state’s agriculture is dependent on rivers fed by snowmelt that is shrinking in a warming climate. Groundwater that supplies most of the state’s drinking water is vulnerable to rapid depletion, where people pump water faster than it can be replenished.
Also in her prepared remarks, Lujan Grisham praised breaking ground on the SunZia Transmission Line, a federal project which would send energy primarily generated by wind and solar in New Mexico to California and Arizona.
She asked for a $100 million fund to ensure local matches to federal infrastructure projects, and for $55 million to provide funding for projects to increase electric vehicle charging stations in southern New Mexico.
There was little mention of oil and gas, which contributes to about 40% of the state budget, but also to extreme weather and natural disasters felt globally.
In her speech, Lujan Grisham pointed to a study from November which found New Mexico emits half of the amount of the emissions compared to Texas, according to a press release. The study was done by Kayrros, a technology company headquartered in Paris, France, which uses “satellite-based technology” to measure impacts of human activities.
New Mexico environmental regulators said in October that only 50% of oil and gas producers complied with federal air quality requirements between July 2022 to July 2023, which top officials called “dismal.”
For this legislative session, New Mexico has a record $3.4 billion estimated “new money” meaning annual income to the state that’s greater than last year. This windfall was generated primarily by oil and gas revenues.
New Mexico is the second-largest oil producing state in the country and in the top 10 states for gas production. Both industries grew in 2023, even as the world experienced its hottest year on record, fueled in part by human development and the burning of fossil fuels
In December, Lujan Grisham joined top federal officials to announce the adoption of methane rules, which mirrored a 2021 New Mexico rule requiring oil and gas producers to capture 98% of methane produced by 2026. Methane is an extremely potent emission which worsens climate change.
Lujan Grisham emphasized that New Mexico is a “clean energy state” and departed again from prepared remarks after more protesters shouted, responding that the state is “in fact, a national climate leader.”
“Anyone in this room and anyone with children of their own, or young people as advocates, let’s make sure that all of the facts are being presented in a way that creates the kind of heartfelt commitment to change, but recognizes the progress in the state,” she said.
Source New Mexico is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Source New Mexico maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Shaun Griswold for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Source New Mexico on Facebook and Twitter.