Apr 12, 2022 –
Many environmental and public health advocates worked tirelessly this past legislative session to move key pieces of legislation forward. Because it was a budget-oriented 30-day session, not many bills made it through the process, but we continued to voice strong messages related to environmental public health.
The two bills highlighted below are aimed at helping improve the health of New Mexicans. Congratulations to all NMEPHN members who worked hard on these bills!
The Community Energy Efficiency Development (CEED) Block Grant Act, HB 37 passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor. The bill, which creates a grant program to implement energy efficiency measures in low-income households, benefits New Mexicans earning low incomes by bringing more affordability to utility bills and supporting those communities most impacted by climate change.
There is a strong correlation between energy efficiency and public health. Multiple studies have shown that energy insecurity, or the inability to pay energy bills, is a significant contributor to physical and mental health challenges in under-served communities. Data also show that Black and Hispanic households are more likely to experience energy insecurity and face utility disconnection, as are households with young children, individuals who require electronic medical devices and those in dwellings with inefficient or poor conditions.
Read more about CEED Block Grant Act
HB164, relating to uranium mining cleanup, also passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor. The bill mobilizes the Environment Department and EMNRD to begin organizing, preparing, and documenting remediation of inactive uranium mining sites that have been abandoned for decades and have created severe health hazards for the people who live near them. There are an estimated 1,100 abandoned uranium mines and mills in New Mexico, 500 of which are on or near the Navajo Nation.
The bill also creates the Uranium Mining Reclamation Revolving Fund, which will collect appropriations, gifts, grants, donations, and money received by the state from the federal government or other state agencies and other sources for conducting uranium mine and mill reclamation activities. Money recovered from litigation or settlements related to uranium mine or mill reclamation will also be deposited in the fund. The bill allocated $350,000 to fund the program’s first-year operating expenses, including hiring staff tasked directly with coordinating the cleanup.
For more information on the impacts of the uranium industry on New Mexicans, see the Navajo Birth Cohort Study.
Though a bill to establish a statewide School of Public Health, SB 119 did not pass, the sponsors of the bill did receive $15 million in the budget to start the process of developing a school of public health. From this $15 million, $10 million was allocated to UNM and $5 million to NMSU, and this funding will be used to conduct early planning, curriculum development, and the hiring of faculty.
Did not pass:
- The Clean Fuel Standards Act sought to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. It passed the Senate but died on the House floor in a rare tie vote.
- The Clean Future Act was this years’ comprehensive climate package and would have set statewide greenhouse gas emissions goals – it passed two House committees, but was ultimately not heard by the full House, so never had an opportunity in the Senate.
- And unfortunately, while the state’s two primary environmental agencies will both receive modest bumps to their budgets, these bumps will still fall about $9 million short of the amounts the agencies and the governor requested in the Executive Budget. This is a disappointment because these are the departments charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, and have been understaffed for some time, which makes it hard for them to do this important work.
The New Mexico Environmental Public Health Network and Voices for Children have joined other advocates in supporting the two rulemakings at the state level — Clean Car rules and Ozone rules.
Clean Car Rule-making
The New Mexico Environment Department and the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department are moving forward on the Clean Cars rule-making process announced by the State of New Mexico last year. Pollution from transportation accounts for a significant amount of New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to our state’s growing ozone problems. Adopting low emissions and zero-emission standards for new cars and trucks is one way we can start tackling this important environmental health issue, which disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities. The New Mexico Environmental Public Health Network and Voices for Children have joined other advocates in supporting Clean Car rules for New Mexico.
There are a variety of ways that the public can participate in the rule-making process including submitting written comments and providing comments virtually and in-person during the scheduled time period.
For more information on public comment processes, see The Road to Clean Cars New Mexico
The draft clean car standards can be viewed here: Petition for Regulatory Change to Adopt New Motor Vehicle Emissions Standards
Last year, the State of New Mexico also issued draft ozone rules to curb the formation of ground-level ozone from fossil fuel operations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in impacted regions of the state. Ground-level ozone can have significant impacts on [public health including impairment of breathing and damage to the heart and lungs, especially for young children. The proposed rules, which went through an extensive stakeholder process, have been being reviewed by the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB).
The EIB will meet for its third review session on April 11 through 14.
To view the EIB meeting, visit the EIB Events Calendar
For more information on the impacts of ozone, visit these resources from ENV.NM.gov or EPA.gov.
Thursday, April 21, 6 p.m. ET – The Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and the Lancet Countdown is sponsoring a free forum where health experts on the front lines of the climate crisis will address how health professionals must rapidly adapt medical practices to mitigate impacts on patients and communities.
To register, visit https://columbiacuimc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcsfuCvrDsqHNFVq2LL61HXVL5yF0hkcbjk
Friday, May 13, 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) and the Doña Ana Village Association are hosting an event at the De La O Visitor’s Center, at 135 Joe Gutierrez St., Doña Ana, NM to discuss pesticides within the context of colonias. The goal of the meeting is to facilitate greater connection among organizations working on pesticide-related issues and generate ideas for collective action. Lunch, coffee, and snacks will be provided.
Please reach out to Ally (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Morgan (email@example.com) if you’re interested in attending.
Wednesday – Thursday, May 17 & 18 – Farmworker Justice will be hosting a free virtual Environmental Justice Symposium on May 17-18. The symposium will explore the impact of climate change on farmworkers and their families in the U.S. In addition to presentations, there will be opportunities for discussion among participants to share recommendations and promising practices.
Information will be coming soon at: https://www.farmworkerjustice.org/
Thursday-Friday, May 19-20 – NM Public Health Association Annual Conference – Public Health for All: Building Communities That Thrive. This virtual conference will feature keynotes, multiple learning session options, robust poster sessions, networking and their new thriving sessions to boost your wellness.
Register at http://www.nmpha.org/event-4686356.