New Mexico Telegram spoke with Liliana Castillo, the Communications and Outreach Manager for Conservation Voters New Mexico about how the legislative session went for their group.
The conservation group said shortly after the end of the session that the group and its allies* had “successfully defeated 100% of the anti-conservation bills in the 2013 New Mexico Legislative Session” — the ninth year in a row they could make that claim.
One under-the-radar bill that Conservation Voters New Mexico was following in this year’s legislative session was a bill that would have extended the sunset dates of a number of boards and commissions — including the Water Quality Control Commission. However, there were multiple attempts to strip the Water Quality commission from the boards and commissions that were extended.
The final attempt came on the final day — but like the others, it was narrowly defeated.
— ConservationVotersNM (@ProtectNM) March 16, 2013
Castillo told said that CVNM was on the defensive for much of the session, “As always.”
While its defense was good as usual, there wasn’t much on the offensive front.
“Overall we were not really able to get anything terribly proactive passed,” Castillo said. “Everything that passed was on a smaller scale.”
Both related to water subdivisions; Castillo said that SB 479 “closes a loophole in water law where a land owner can sever the water rights from the property they own.”
In layman’s terms, a loophole allows land owners to sever their water rights from their property — then drill wells and use that to provide water themselves. In essence, it is double-dipping on water.
SB 480 deals with a similar problem; it would change the threshold for the Water Engineer to be involved in the Evaluation of Water Availability process from 20 parcels of two acres or more to 10 parcels.
“By closing the loopholes, they do provide some conservation,” Castillo said.
There were also some bills that were killed by the legislature. One was HB 189, sponsored by
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. Rep. Gail Chasey and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez.
It would have updated penalties for pollution by oil and gas companies — something that hasn’t been done since the law was originally passed nearly 8 decades ago.
“It’s not a deterrant,” Castillo said of the current penalties.
The penalties stand at just $1,000 for polluting — leading to what Castillo calls a “Permit to pollute.”
That bill failed on the House floor on a 36-32 vote.
This contrasts with HB 189, sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, which would bar making false statements to the Environment Department. The Fiscal Impact Report says this “can have serious public health consequences, can lead to significant costs to innocent individuals and businesses, and can compromise NMED’s regulatory programs.”
The bill passed the House and was on the Senate calendar, but failed — but was amended in Senate Judiciary Committee and so would have had to go back to the House for concurrence even if it had passed (it passed the House 65-0).
For the bills that did not make the governor’s, it is too soon for CVNM to decide whether or not they should push form them again in 2015. The 2014 legislative session is a “short” session and fiscal issues dominate.
Only fiscal issues and issues that are put on the call by the governor can be discussed by the Legislature in those short, even-year sessions. It is unlikely that Martinez would put such conservation efforts on her call.
* The original post said it was only CVNM, but the press release cited CVNM and its allies.
Filed under: Environment, Featured, Governor, New Mexico House, New Mexico Senate · Tags: 2013 Legislative SEssion, Brian Egolf, Conservation Voters New Mexico, Environment Department, Legislative recap, Liliana Castillo, Peter Wirth, Water Quality Control Commission, Water subdivisions