Rare tie vote blocks clean fuel legislation in House

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An electric car charges at a charging station near the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Friday. Roundhouse legislation has called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and establishing a market for the sale of reduced emissions credits. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — A proposal to establish a clean fuel standard in New Mexico failed in a tie vote early Thursday as the House deadlocked 33-33 on the bill.

Ten Democrats — many from rural parts of the state — joined all Republicans in attendance to vote against the bill.

Two Democrats, a conservative-leaning independent and a Republican were not present for the vote, which took place at 3:15 a.m. after more than three hours of debate.

The session ends Thursday noon.

The legislation, Senate Bill 14, had been approved by the Senate. However, it had been amended by a House committee, meaning it would have had to be sent back to the Senate if it had passed the House.

Republicans said the proposal would have raised gasoline prices and made other goods more expensive due to transportation costs.

House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, said the proposal would have hurt the standard of living for ordinary New Mexicans, especially rural residents who face longer commutes.

“Our state is already one of the poorest states in the country,” Townsend said. “You are proposing a bill that will raise fuel prices.”

State Rep. Nathan Small, a Democrat from Las Cruces who introduced the bill on Thursday, said climate change is contributing to droughts, wildfires and rising temperatures — all serious threats to the New Mexico.

“We are facing catastrophic climate change that threatens so many different parts of what we do and who we are as New Mexicans,” Small said.

The proposal sought to enact a clean fuel standard that would have required a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from each unit of fuel used for transportation over eight years.

The requirement would increase to 30% by 2040.

In committee, the House had added an amendment intended to allow the owners of the San Juan coal plant – which is now scheduled to close in June – to keep it open longer.

The amendment came amid fears that New Mexico will face power outages this summer.

The bill has been a priority for Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Among the Democrats who voted against the bill were a number of lawmakers from rural parts of the state, including the Northwest.

Dissenting Democratic votes came from Eliseo Alcon of Milan, Anthony Allison of Fruitland, Harry Garcia, Grants, Doreen Wonda Johnson of Church Rock, Raymundo Lara of Chamberino, Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, Willie Madrid of Chaparral , Velarde’s Roger Montoya and Deming’s Candie Sweetser.

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