Candidate, NM House of Representatives, 70

Anita Gonzales

Anita4NewMexico.com
  • If elected, what specific policies will you pursue in 2023 to begin rapidly transitioning our economy to achieve carbon neutrality in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?

If elected, first I will support already passed legislation such as the Energy Transition Act and current recommendations as part of our commitment in joining the US Climate Alliance. 2nd, I would support specific policies that enabled rural New Mexico to help meet the demands of the legislation. It is a bold plan to meet carbon neutrality and the reality is, much of our state does not have the infrastructure to support this. 3rd, I would work towards supporting communities that will be affected by change in industry. And finally, I will support revenue diversification with the promotion of renewable energy and responsible agriculture; groundwater management; and zero-emission vehicles.

  • Do you agree with climate scientists that the brunt of the impacts we face due to climate change will be put on those who contributed the least emissions? (The global South, Indigenous, and low-income communities)

Yes 

  • Do you agree with climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed within 8 years in order to achieve carbon neutrality in time to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and to avoid catastrophic runaway climate disruption?

Yes

  • In your opinion, why do political leaders set benchmarks and timeframes for emissions reductions that do not comport with climate science mandates?

In my opinion, I believe the difficulty in setting benchmarks is because there are many other community related factors and influences that must be considered. In New Mexico we are historically dependent on oil and natural gas for our economy, our workforce, and community support in some areas. If elected, I will work towards an effective transition to cleaner energy that will work towards meeting mandates, but will also seek to build a related workforce and economy.

  • If elected, what will you do differently than current leadership?

Within the House of Representatives, I believe we have made great strides with regards to environmental legislation. I would support this progression. As a rural legislator, I would work to ensure that rural communities get the attention they deserve. My background with environmental education and as a commissioner for local acequias could differentiate my perspective from others.

  • What measures will you propose and advance to ensure that economic recovery and the transition to a green economy fosters equity and economic & racial justice?

A green economy should enable communities to manage their natural resources more sustainably. This comes with integrated policy making between affected parties and a framework that combines environmental, equity, and economic objectives. Policies need to support the local communities that are affected and understand economic disparities within our state. Any regulations that come with a personal cost are going to have to consider that many New Mexican may not be able to economically comply.

  • If elected, will you support the creation of a Just Transition Study & Fund to identify alternative revenue sources for our state budget and allocate funds from oil and gas directly into community-driven climate mitigation and adaptation strategies? Explain.

Yes, it is extremely important to consider community factors in any new potential major industries. The "Just Transition" principle looks holistically on our revenue streams to strive to be a regenerative economy source. Any industry will not succeed without considering and involving the community.

  • If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy for all of NM?

New Mexico is rich in our history of indigenous people that have sustained our lands by understanding the importance of preserving our resources and using them to provide for their communities. I am proud to come from a family with deep roots to my Northern NM community. As a commissioner on 2 local acequia systems, I see the value in preserving cultural knowledge for future use.

  • Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?

I currently work with NM MESA, a non-profit STEM program. For the last 19 years, I have had the opportunity to participate and/or facilitate many programs related to environmental education. This has allowed me to gain a holistic perspective of our environment and impacts/benefits of industry to it. I am also currently a State ExCom member and endorsed by the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. All of these things have given me invaluable resources and trusted colleagues.

  • Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM

Environmental racism is where communities of low socioeconomic groups and often communities of color are negatively impacted by environmental hazards. Often, they are targeted because regulations and advocates are not in place to protect these communities. Residents often see opportunity in the short term, but these projects have long term impacts. In my district, the Terrero Mine and its mill along the Pecos River was one of the most damaging projects that is still in remediation.

  • What is the responsibility of your generation to the youth and future generations while in office? Explain.

It will take all generations working together to create effective climate action. I consider myself a mid-generation where I can see where we have come from, but fully understand that we have a responsibility to preserve our Earth. I think we have a responsibility to accept that climate change is real and is here! We have a responsibility to change our mindset and recognize new opportunities for economic growth. And, we have a responsibility to set in motion action.

  • A) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas development in the state of New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

B) I want to be clear that I am open to this idea, but there are other issues that impact this decision. Gas Development has proven negative long-term effects, but until we have a sustainable alternative energy grid, we are reliant in some degree on current areas where we have extraction. I do support additional investigation and impact studies into any new site. Once we have a more diversified energy portfolio, I would support a moratorium on all development.

  • B) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

I support the Energy Transitions Act which will look to transition our Energy source(s) in New Mexico. With that, I would support a moratorium for utilities as the law requires that 50% of electricity be generated from renewable resources by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

  • Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?

I think there is potential for nuclear energy. It is a much cleaner form of energy and could be a way to attain energy security while minimizing emissions. The French energy policy is a great example of the potential for nuclear energy. But, to attain that security, attention needs to be placed on radioactive waste management and on guidelines for energy policy and security.

  • Do you support the development of Hydrogen Production Hubs here in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

Hydrogen is a “cleaner” fuel but as it was introduced is heavily dependent on the use of natural gas to produce which still results in “dirty” emissions. I think this is an industry that has potential, and we have the resources to be at the forefront of a hydrogen sector. But, we cannot jump to production without the needed scientific and technology advancements that will make this a viable alternative and truly be a “cleaner” fuel.

I believe hydrogen usage has potential, but the methodology to create hydrogen needs to be closely evaluated. As proposed, this innovation was still very experimental and kept New Mexico dependent on fossil fuels and oil and gas. Production of “green” hydrogen was dependent on the usage of critical water resources that we as a state do not have. Hydrogen could be used within a diversified framework that offers the opportunity to decarbonize some hard to transition sectors and could be a transition for some of our communities

 

  • Do you support community ownership of energy where Cities/Counties/Indigenous Nations are able to own, produce, and sell electricity to residents and keep energy dollars local?

Some communities utilize this model with water currently as there is not a statewide grid available. Pros of this system are that energy dollars could be kept local. But cons to this system are that the maintenance and sustainable cost are also kept local so an infrastructure would need to be in place to support this move long term. Also, if this model was used, communities would need to consider how to replace revenue that is dependent on taxation and supplied such as education funding.

  • What do you believe is the fossil fuel industry/utility’s responsibility for cleanup and how as an elected official in the public office for which you are running do you plan to hold industry accountable for pollution and cleanup?

Yes, site abandonment is a very real possibility which will leave New Mexico with a sizable reclamation cost. I believe any activity that could result in a negative environmental impact should have financial guarantees and plans in place for long term mitigation. If not in place, they should not be allowed to operate.

  • Do you support utility bill forgiveness for low-income New Mexicans who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes

  • Some are saying that COVID-19 is the dress rehearsal for the climate crisis. In fact, in many places throughout the world, the two are compounding crises. What do you think we can learn from the COVID-19 crisis when addressing the climate crisis?

I think it shows that we have the potential to change up our current business model and social structure. With an adequate technology network in place we can work towards less vehicle emissions and corporate waste. We have learned that science is real and experts should be valued to avoid a crisis that halts the world. And while in a "time out" we have learned how efficiently our earth can recover if given assistance.

  • Describe your previous experience working on social/health/environmental issues, do you have experience working with impacted communities to co-develop solutions? How will you use this experience to tackle the climate crisis?

Working for a non-profit organization, I have spent my career advocating for equity and access in education. Our organization works with under-represented youth to ensure opportunities and provide resources to encourage success. Majority of our program are in rural and under-served areas. Tackling the climate crisis will require purposeful sequential action and engaging our communities. This experience grants me perspective and understanding of the needs of our different communities.

  • What are your ideas to loosen the grip of industry on the state legislature and strengthen our democracy?

First, we need to elect officials that truly act on behalf of all New Mexicans. Second, we need to diversify our revenue stream so that we are not so dependent on any single industry. And lastly, we need to look at our regulations and taxation so that our codes reflect our democratic values.

  • Name specific alternative sources for state revenue that you'd pursue and propose if elected

Diversification is critical. I think we need to invest in other areas of industry that have immediate potential for growth such as alternative energy, agriculture, tourism, cannabis, aerospace and defense, distribution and transportation, manufacturing, digital media and film, and federal government support. Long term, we need to create a workforce through education that is attractive to business and prioritize tax reform.

Addition to Question Below on the fossilfree pledge: Because the Oil and Gas Industry is such a large contributor to our state, I see value in working with industry leaders to work towards a common objective. No monetary support from the industry would change my position that we NEED to progressively move forward in climate change and energy reform. By signing the pledge I think it would polarize me as an opponent of industry in general. But, I will not nor have not taken monetary donations as listed in the pledge.

  • Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No

No

No

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