When the Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund asked to review documentation or notes from public meetings held by the New Mexico Environment Department 2015 as they began planning how to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan, a spokesperson for the state department told them “no notes were taken from any of the public meetings.”
If input was heard, it wasn’t recorded. The New Mexico Environment Department did not respond to SFR’s request for notes or documents from any of those meetings that would indicate otherwise.
“We really want and need, frankly, New Mexico to engage the community in a real way, and if you’re not taking notes on what’s said, then how can they incorporate that in a real way?” says Liliana Castillo, communications director for CVNM Education Fund.
The Clean Power Plan calls for a 36.3 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions for the state of New Mexico. The Supreme Court has issued a stay on its rollout, but the New Mexico Environment Department—then with Secretary Ryan Flynn at the helm, though Flynn has since gone on to work as a lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association—pledged to continue working to curtail emissions, and PNM, the state’s largest power provider, is already transitioning its coal-fired power plants to alternative sources.
From a private meeting held Nov. 13, 2015, with representatives from power companies including PNM and Xcel Energy, the state did collect six pages of notes on the questions those entities had. They include a lot of “we’re not sure” answers from the state to questions about the technical components of the plan and which other states we might collaborate with. They also comment that if Environmental Improvement Board, a regulatory oversight panel appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate, tries to “mess around” with NMED’s proposed plan, the state could withdraw it.
Notes from the meeting with power companies, available on the energy news site E&E Publishing, include mention that formal public comment will ensue once the public notice process is completed, but Castillo says that’s not enough.
“It’s generally not as collaborative an environment,” she says. “What we’re pushing for is for New Mexicans to be involved in deciding solutions to the problems that are affecting their families. By having public meetings and not recording what was said, they’re really not incorporating what New Mexicans want as the plan is drafted.”
The state did take notes from a separate meeting, also held Nov. 13, 2015, with NGOs, including Western Resource Advocates, Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, and Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy. Conservation Voters was not on the list of attendees. The notes show those organizations heard the same presentation as the utilities and electric co-ops, had questions the state had no answer for yet on trading and whether cap and trade would be allowed, and what advantage New Mexico might have in trading with other states because it’s already on track to meet the mass goal for total carbon dioxide emissions. They also critiqued NMED’s approach to when and where public meetings were scheduled, and suggested a technical working group to deal with these issues “in a transparent way.”