My testimony to the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board in Santa Fe on 3/1/2010, regarding case No. EIB 08-19(R) concerned with creating an emissions cap for the fossil fuel industry here in New Mexico. I am passionately supportive of the emissions cap.
I am here today before the board speaking on behalf of my family, my community, the many infants and children of my community. And most importantly, I speak on behalf of my own unborn children.
I’m so very proud to be a New Mexican, and because of this I can tell you today that New Mexico DESERVES to have every chance to be at the forefront of the global green economy. New Mexicans are some of the most hard working, honest, straight forward, unpretentious, down to earth, kind and caring folks I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. New Mexicans are willing to work hard for the progress that is promised through environmental regulations for some of the biggest, dirtiest corporations in New Mexico and the United States. Creating an emissions cap for New Mexico’s fossil fuel industry makes good business sense, is good for the health of all New Mexicans, promotes the sustained beauty of our landscape and most of all gives us the opportunity to jumpstart our economy in a meaningful way and stand, with pride, at the fore-front of the green energy revolution.
I’m currently employed at Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. We go out into the communities of New Mexico every night, talking with and listening to the stories of everyday, average New Mexican – spanning the entire political and social spectrum – and what we are hearing is that New Mexicans are tired of the same old game in New Mexico: fossil fuel industry ruling New Mexico, wielding often unchecked power over the present and future of this state, receiving excessive federal and state subsidies while small business owners struggle to keep their doors open. These companies are also polluting our communities with no accountability.
We continually hear from the fossil fuel industry that any sort of regulation of them will destroy one of the state’s main sources of income, that they bring prosperity to the state of New Mexico and that any challenge of them will be detrimental to the state of New Mexico’s workers and their families.
I’m working class, I’m a citizen of New Mexico and I haven’t seen those benefits. I haven’t seen them spread far and wide and benefit New Mexicans at large, which is what they have promised us. Instead I’ve seen the fossil fuel industry make a very few people very rich.
A few years ago, a National Academy of Sciences study, found that some areas of the country could be used for national priorities irrespective of the resulting permanent environmental damage, calling these places “National Sacrifice Areas.” Many of these areas were identified to be on Indigenous lands, and more specifically many of those lands are in New Mexico. The term “sacrifice” means that a person or group gives up something for the benefit of another or the greater good.
It seems to me, that the fossil fuel industry has asked New Mexico to sacrifice more than our fair share for the rest of the country to have access to cheap energy.
New Mexico is the second-largest gas-producing state in this country, and despite all that abundance, many Dine people, whether living on the Navajo Reservation or on land allotted by the federal government, still use firewood to heat their homes and to cook their meals; they often cannot afford gas or it is not even available where they live.
The Navajo Nation exports 1200% more energy than it consumes – these industries are promising that they will bring abundance to ALL New Mexicans and yet, over 50% of folks on the Navajo reservation don’t have running water or electricity, but live within close proximity of and work at facilities that process gas and electricity that the rest of the country enjoys use of.
After what’s turned into much ado about nothing, oil and gas aren’t bringing in long-promised increased revenue, and somehow are able to skirt their tax obligations, while our legislature is allowing working class people to be taxed on food!! Food!?!
NEW MEXICANS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO SACRIFICE QUALITY OF LIFE IN FAVOR OF PROFITS FOR OIL AND GAS COMPANIES.
Families invested for generations in the fossil fuel industry are in large part reaping the benefits that old school monopoly affords them – the fossil fuel industry has seen record profits in past years.
New Mexico’s working class families have been setting their own records of late – they are experiencing record levels of unemployment. They are struggling at unprecedented levels to feed their families, to clothe their children, to pay their bills and to provide their children with a higher education.
The conventional energy industry employs armies of marketing pros to convince us that we need them, that they are capable of innovation if we just wait long enough, but we’ve really yet to see any of their promises come to fruition. The fossil fuel industry is based on the false premise of abundance and is struggling to fight an imminent death. Much like the auto industry, the energy industry is attached to a past filled with record profits which has blinded them to meaningful innovation and progress.
A cap on emissions by the dirty energy industry promises increased investment in progressive technologies, which will lead to jobs creation, new training and retraining of skilled workers and prestige for New Mexico as a leader, an example to the rest of the nation.
NEW MEXICANS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO SACRIFICE THE PROMISE OF GOOD GREEN JOBS BECAUSE OF THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY’S NOSTALIGIC ATTACHMENT TO THE PAST AND REFUSAL TO HONESTLY AND DILIGENTLY PURSUE INNOVATION.
Air quality in New Mexico is one of the worst in the country, particularly on Native reservations and rural areas. Effluent from mining, burning and waste treatment of fossil fuels in the state have resulted in some of the highest rates of respiratory diseases, asthma, heart attacks, strokes and premature mortality.
The Four Corners Power Plant, owned by Arizona Public Service – one of the largest coal-fired plants in the country – is also one of the largest sources of air pollution in New Mexico. Each of the plant’s five units burns more than 10 million tons of coal each year, and releases 1,300 tons of particulates, 12,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 42,000 tons of nitrogen oxides.
In particular, lung cancer and other serious respiratory illnesses have been found at increased rates in workers employed at power plants and other dirty industries, in addition to those living near to these facilities. New Mexican working class people employed by the fossil fuel industry are making cheap energy possible by paying with their health and lives.
NEW MEXICANS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO SACRIFICE OUR HEALTH TO FEED OUR FAMILIES OR LIVE IN THIS BEAUTIFUL STATE.
I will close by saying once again that we New Mexicans deserve better than the dirty legacy the fossil fuel industry has given us. We’ve sacrificed enough. New Mexico should not have to be the sacrificial lamb for the rest of the country’s addition to cheap, dirty energy. It’s our turn to shine. To show the rest of the country and the world what we are capable of.
We deserve fair and legitimate regulations on industry that only serve to create abundance for both the people of New Mexico and industry that operates here.
Our people deserve clean air and clean technologies that will allow people to feed their families safely and with dignity.
New Mexicans deserve the best that we can give ourselves.
(C) 2010 By Shannon Laliberte Parks. All Rights Reserved. Please Obtain Permission to Copy.