New Mexico wildfire burns area the size of Los Angeles
The blaze burned more than 468 square miles, becoming the largest blaze in the arid state’s recorded history.
Anastasiia Riddle, USA TODAY
A spring and summer of record wildfires believed to be sparked by pollution and ensuing climate change in New Mexico has prompted environmental groups to call on state and federal lawmakers to act in Congress and at the next state legislative session.
Carlsbad’s Citizens Caring for the Future joined other groups across the state and the United States to sign a letter to lawmakers saying New Mexico must work to address its contribution to pollution as the national leader in fossil fuels and the resulting environmental damage.
New Mexico’s 2023 legislative session was scheduled to begin next January, which means lawmakers in the State House and Senate have about six months to draft legislation.
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Previous sessions have seen numerous Democratic-led environmental bills introduced with mixed success, aimed at reducing polluting emissions from the oil and gas industry, developing tougher regulatory standards for vehicles, and growing the sectors. state renewable energy.
While bills supporting tax relief for renewable energy users passed during the budget-focused 30-day session, others, like the Clean Fuel Standard Act, require fuel producers of New Mexico to reduce carbon emissions and the Clean Future Act to set benchmarks. to reduce greenhouse gases, has not done so.
Lawmakers also failed to pass legislation backed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to promote hydrogen power in the state, a proposal meant to lead to cleaner power generation but criticized by opponents as offering another pathway for the use of fossil fuels.
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In response to the legislature’s struggles to enact laws that would tackle climate change and the largest wildfires in state history this year — Calf Canyon has burned about 341,735 acres since April — environmentalists have wrote letters to heads of government last week.
A letter signed by 35 state and national environmental groups was sent to lawmakers on July 7, saying the already arid state is getting hotter and drier and conditions will worsen without government action.
“Forest fires are not ’caused’ by climate change. But their increased size, speed and intensity are the result of the impacts of climate change and land management – changes in the form and amount of precipitation, loss of soil moisture and structure, drying of plant material, increased infestation and tree disease, and possibly stronger and more persistent. winds, among other effects,” the letter read.
“The people of New Mexico are counting on you to not only show leadership in addressing this moment, but to ensure that we take proactive steps to avoid more times like these.”
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Similar letters were sent that day to Democratic U.S. Senators from New Mexico Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, along with another appeal to Democratic U.S. Representatives in the state. Teresa Leger Fernandez, Melanie Stansbury and Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell who represents the southern New Mexico Congressional District that encompasses parts of the Permian Basin oil fields.
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The Permian Basin belongs to the United States. most active oil field, producing at least 5 million barrels of oil per day, nearly half of the total daily U.S. crude production of about 11 million barrels, according to U.S. Energy data Information Administration.
While all of this production can impact the environment in New Mexico, Herrell said it’s also a primary economic driver, providing more than a third of state revenue.
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She supported a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the federal government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, giving a state’s elected officials the power to make those decisions. .
“Uncontrollable federal bureaucracy threatens the livelihood of every American, and today’s decision puts the ball in Congress’s court to meet our energy needs through Democratic legislation,” Herrell said during the announcement of the decision on June 30.
A July 7 report from the Carlsbad Development Department showed oil and gas in New Mexico brought in $5.3 billion in revenue to state and local governments in fiscal year 2021, which extends from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.
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It’s the most on record in New Mexico’s history, according to the report, and Eddy County Executive Al Davis said the policy should support the industry’s growth as a critical segment. both local and statewide economy.
“The commercial and industrial activities that take place in Eddy County continue to be a key economic driver not only for southeastern New Mexico, but for the state as a whole,” he said. he declares. “The commercial and industrial activities that take place here provide tremendous economic opportunities in our region, ranging from quality, well-paying jobs to the development of new businesses.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.