On Thursday, the Senate Tax, Business, and Transportation Committee, on a vote of 7-4, passed S.B. 11, the “Clean Fuel Standard Act” despite protests from many of the public about the extreme effects of the bill on the poor and middle class, who would be most harmed by it. Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Bernalillo) is the bill sponsor.
The bill puts extreme clean fuel standards on businesses that produce or import transportation fuels and fuels used in motor vehicles. The restrictions on these companies would force them to invest in costly upgrades to their fuel standards, meaning these costs would transfer to the consumers. The bill also adds vague and sweeping “enviro-justice” provisions to state law.
In California and Oregon, where clean fuel standards are already in place, there are already increased costs of up to 24 cents per gallon on gas, which directly hurts poor consumers.
Sen. Martin Hickey (D-Bernalillo) brought this concern up. He said, “I’m concerned too much of the cost is going to be born by those who can’t afford to do it.”
New Mexico Energy Secretary James Kenney and Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keys tried to downplay the cost concern, claiming the effects on direct costs to the consumers were more like two cents per gallon, not citing any evidence to prove these numbers.
Sen. Craig Brandt (D-Sandoval) asked the question again, to which Sen. Stewart got flustered, having the very real concern repeated to her. She said in a stern voice, “You know what gas costs in Europe? It costs $6-7 a gallon!” She said people drove smaller electric cars in the region and said she didn’t appreciate “the sky is falling” arguments regarding concerns attributed to her bill. Stewart also complained about the committee hearing nearing two hours long on her bill.
Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) lamented the bill didn’t go far enough on “climate change,” citing Joe Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry who apparently said the world has “twelve years to evade the worst possible consequences” of “climate change.” Sen. Wirth stressed his point that “climate change is obviously is here!”
“This can be a huge boom in terms of jobs–jobs that pay well and have benefits with really proper companies,” stressed Secretary Keyes, despite any tangible arguments or information that could back up her claims. All that was truly apparent in the hearing was that companies that manufacture and transport carbon-emitting fuels will be penalized, and the poor would be forced to eat the cost of the legislation.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), which took a neutral stance on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s “mini” Green New Deal (The Energy Transition Act) is also taking a neutral stance on this bill. NMOGA dumped thousands into Democrat campaigns in 2018 and 2020.
S.B. 11 now heads to Senate Finance for approval, where its proposed $3,200,000 appropriation will be scrutinized, as well as its fiscal impacts.