Published in the Albuquerque Journal
By Talia Boyd / Western New Mexico Organizer, Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund And Christopher Ramirez / Director, Juntos
Last year our nation’s leaders called for landmark action to reduce carbon pollution through the Clean Power Plan. It’s clear that unified action is sorely needed to curb the worst impacts of climate change.
However, one of the solutions proposed in the plan is extremely problematic for New Mexico: The plan identifies nuclear energy as one of four carbon-neutral energy platforms that it encourages states to adopt.
At the same time, Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration unveiled a draft of its vision for New Mexico’s energy future – dubbed the “state energy plan.”
The plan directs decisionmaking bodies in the state to adopt a slate of policies to artificially prop up fossil fuels, from exporting coal to more natural gas. The plan also calls for expanding New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard after 2020 to include nuclear energy as a solution to carbon pollution.
Already, some of our leaders are offering up our state as the nation’s de facto nuclear dumping ground. New Mexico’s communities of color and low-income communities live daily with the consequences of our dependence on dirty energy sources like coal and nuclear.
Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund’s program Juntos is working to organize for and with Latinos in Albuquerque for clean energy and healthy families.
In a recent survey, we discovered that 88 percent of nearly 500 community members say it’s important to them that their utility company generates their electricity in ways that don’t pollute the air or contribute to climate change.
This is because people of color, including Latinos, are disproportionately affected by water and air pollution.
Communities like Gallup and Church Rock know all too well that the fuel life cycle of nuclear energy is far from clean.
That’s because northwestern New Mexico was a key corner of uranium extraction and production from the 1940s until the 1980s, and is home to over 259 uranium mines. Shockingly, an astounding 137 of those mines have no record of cleanup. As a result, northwestern New Mexico families are plagued daily with exposure to radioactive tailings piles, mining waste and equipment left behind after the mining boom turned bust.
Yet, policies like the Clean Power Plan and Martinez’s energy plans call for decisionmakers to again sacrifice people for the sake of industry by pushing for further investment in coal and nuclear energy.
Furthermore, the voices at the table shaping those plans do not include the communities that have been living with the impacts of poor energy policy.
As a result, those that are at the table aren’t talking about the horrific legacy of uranium mining and widespread poor air quality, and how we should be instead creating a different vision for New Mexico’s future.
Juntos is organizing with Latino families, especially youths and mothers in the International District, South Valley and Westgate, to have their voices heard.
As we educate the community about the Clean Power Plan and hear stories about the health and economic status of our families, they also see the intersection between needing good jobs, conserving electricity, respiratory problems with children and elders as well as not wanting to further pollute the air and water. They also want officials to act, and act now.
This is a defining moment for all of us. We can break the cycle of devastation and harm that one-sided policies have created in our communities by choosing another road.
Together, we must push the state to adopt a vision for our energy future that is developed by the people. If our leaders truly care about creating a healthier New Mexico for all, they need to demonstrate their commitment to change by working with communities to develop solutions.
The first step is to listen.
Juntos is a program of Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund in partnership with Chispa, a program of League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
Published in the Albuquerque Journal