Candidate, Public Regulation Commission District 3
Do you agree with climate scientists that we are facing a climate emergency?
Do you believe New Mexico does enough to protect ratepayers and the environment when it comes to regulating its utilities? Explain.
No. The Attorney General needs to intervene more in rate cases to protect ratepayers. The Governor's Office should have a Division of Ratepayer advocates similar to California. The NMPRC should also have more centralized resources to fight for ratepayers through a Consumer Services and Consumer Protection Offices.
If elected, what would you change if anything about the regulatory regime in New Mexico?
I would ensure that more revenues are invested in energy efficiency programs by fully implementing rate decoupling - a mechanism/policy to decouple utility profits from total sales thereby removing the incentive to sell more energy. I would make sure ratepayers have access to real-time energy usage to help reduce their usage. I would make sure that low income populations do not disproportionately pay a higher share of energy transition and utility costs.
Do you agree with climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed within 12 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?
In your opinion, why do political leaders set benchmarks and timeframes for emissions reductions that do not comport with climate science mandates? If elected, what will you do differently than current leadership?
As an engineer, I believe the data and science that we are facing a climate crisis. I would not be held back by arbitrary benchmarks. I will ensure that utilities engage in practices that are not anti-competitive and anti-innovative. I will maximize the incentives to accelerate our transition to 100% renewable energy. I will strive to collaborate with the executive and legislative branches and the Attorney General to share a vision for a solid path to a clean energy future.
If elected, what specific policies will you initiate in your first year of service to begin transitioning our economy to net zero carbon emissions in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?
I would not support the use of natural gas as replacement power for coal plants slated for closure. Instead, I will fight for more battery storage for quick start capability. I would make sure that any renewals of nuclear power leases through the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant by PNM are phased out. I would bolster the expertise in the PRC to help exceed the renewable portfolio standards. I will push for the modernization of our electric grid to accommodate a mix of renewable energy.
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?
Ensure that utilities and intra-state broadband providers allow for gradual repayment of unpaid bills of working families. Work to protect customer classes like renters from paying a larger share of energy transition costs. Lobby our Federal delegation to maintain the Federal tax credit for renewable energy. Call for a massive stimulus funding package to accelerate the growth of the renewable energy sector and create jobs; and maximize renewable energy development on Federal lands.
If elected, will you support the creation of a Just Transition Study & Fund to identify alternative revenue sources for our state budget and invest in community-driven climate mitigation and adaptation strategies? Explain.
Yes. I would call on the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Development to assess the true impacts from the closure of the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners coal plants and earmark funds for the economic impact mitigation. I would apply a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) type of social, economic, and environmental impact assessment on large energy transition projects and push for least-impact alternatives.
If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy for all of NM?
The NMPRC is tasked to jointly collaborate with tribal governments on issues of mutual concern including jointly sanctioning studies regarding impacts to Indian country by utility projects. I will apply the standards behind the certificate of convenience and necessity to ensure large power plants and transmission lines do not impair our environmental values. As a native New Mexican and land grant heir, I understand the need to include those indigenous and traditional values in our decisions.
Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?
We are facing a climate crisis and PRC Commissioners need to have subject matter experts, either on staff or by contract, to advise them on the climate implications of major decisions. I will invite organizations like YUCCA to intervene on PRC cases that have climate implications to seek their input and advice. If elected, I will strive to ensure that my executive assistant is well versed on our climate crisis. I will also push for community conversations at key points in our energy transition.
Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM.
Environmental racism is when disadvantaged populations and neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by government decisions. As Mayor of Española, I fought for and received designation and funding for a Superfund site in the old downtown area in 2006. The EPA is now abandoning their mitigation responsibility and leaving it to an underfunded NM Environment Department. The Federal government has refused to replace the municipal drinking water wells that were abandoned because of the site.
Do you believe climate action is an issue of intergenerational justice? What is the responsibility of your generation to the youth and future generations while in office? Explain.
As a baby boomer, we are a transitional generation atoning for our past behavior and have an obligation to strive to leave a better planet for future generations. So climate action must be sustainable, equitable, and teachable to ensure we never go back to Love Canal, Three Mile Island, Flint Michigan, etc. As an 14-year elected official and 30-year Federal engineer, I'm proud of my conservation, social justice, & sustainability accomplishments and will carry that forward as PRC Commissioner.
A) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas development in the state of New Mexico? Why or Why Not?
I support diversifying our State's economy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. I support investing in our renewable energy economy and seeking additional forms of revenue through the taxation of internet transactions and legalizing recreational cannabis vs the regressive gross receipts taxes. I would allow the Energy Transition Act and economic forces lead to the end of new gas development as natural gas is not renewable energy and has 1/2 of the greenhouse gas emissions as coal plants.
B) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?
Yes. The Energy Transition Act calls for the elimination of all non-renewable energy (i.e., natural gas) by 2045. Replacement power for soon-to-be-closed coal plants should not have any natural gas. It's quick start capability can be replaced through renewable energy battery storage.
Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?
Nuclear energy (NE) is not considered renewable energy and therefore has no role in NM’s carbon free energy future. NE is a part of PNM’s base load or power source in the amount of 400 MW from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS) in Arizona. PNM Resources is a major owner of PVNGS with a 10.2% stake in the plant. Nuclear energy is the most expensive energy source and represents environmental, public health, and safety risks. Therefore, nuclear energy should not be expanded.
Do you support a competitive energy market where Cities/Counties/Indigenous Nations are able to own, produce, and sell electricity to residents and keep energy dollars local?
Yes. NM utilities should be part of the Western Energy Imbalance Market (WEIM) – a restructured competitive market run by independent system operators that allow independent power producers and non-utility generators to trade power in a competitive fashion. This market is much more flexible and uses various resources to balance supply and demand and gives consumers choices and saves money. Selling surplus energy and capacity in this market will keep utility rates low.
Community Solar legislation has been brought up multiple times in the last few years. What is your position on community solar and what will you do to ensure that community solar is prioritized and passes?
I must avoid taking a position on specific legislation as this may be perceived as pre-judging leading to my recusal on related actions, if elected. However, I support the principles of community solar - affordable, accessible solar power owned by the community and shared by the community for everyone, especially cost-burdened renters and low-income citizens.
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?
With coal plants closing as a result of economic factors and incentivized by the securitization in the Energy Transition Act, I will ensure that environmental impacts are completely assessed and mitigated with adequate resources as the next PRC Commissioner.
Do you believe bonding rates for industry should cover the full cost of cleanup?
We have seen the oil industry collapse over the last month, with oil prices nosediving. Given our current situation and the danger our state’s budget is in, how do you see the role of oil and gas corporations in New Mexico’s future?
I see a quick rebound of the oil and gas industry. However, a transition to a clean energy future is pressing the Governor and Legislature to take bolder steps to diversify our economy and revenue sources to reduce the dependence on oil and gas revenues. Also, the fracking industry must be curtailed by banning the use of potable water and enacting stringent regulations on produced water.
Do you support utility bill forgiveness for low-income New Mexicans who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis?
Some folks 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?
We need to be prepared at the local and State levels due to Federal inaction and comprehensive planning. Rising temperatures and sea water levels should trigger emergency managers and planners to prepare for this crisis. Coastal communities must begin a transition to relocation and development further inland. We must stop the burning of the Amazon rain forest. Lastly, we need a president that is not a climate change denier that reverses all efforts to help avert a climate crisis.
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?
I'm a former Vice Chair of the Conservation Voters on NM and assisted with a major Latino outreach called Juntos. I led the effort to end indoor smoking as an Española city councilor. I sponsored and help pass the Renter's Bill of Rights as a Santa Fe City Councilor. As a member of the Governors Blue Ribbon Water Task Force, I helped develop the State's first water plan. I helped regionalize solid waste and public transportation in the Española Valley as a councilman and Mayor, respectively.
Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No
Will you take the #fossilfree pledge? http://nofossilfuelmoney.org/politician-signup/