Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holds a news conference in July at the Capitol to announce her picks to lead the Public Education Department and Department of Public Safety.

A new climate change bureau, a boost in drinking water oversight and an expanded hemp and cannabis agency would be paid for by a hefty funding increase Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is proposing for the state Environment Department.

In all, the agency would see a 48.7 percent bump in its budget if lawmakers approve it in the 30-day legislative session set to begin Jan. 18.

That’s a big if.

The Legislative Finance Committee recommends a 6.4 percent increase in the agency’s budget for the 2023 fiscal year.

In a statement, Lujan Grisham said she was proposing the bigger budget to make environmental oversight a priority.

“My administration believes that clean air, clean water, and clean lands are the right of every New Mexican, and I am committed to providing the resources to state agencies to make sure that is the case,” Lujan Grisham said.

Cleaning up industry, taking action on climate change and protecting public health can be done while strengthening and diversifying the economy, she added.

The proposal includes:

  • $2.5 million to fund a 15-person climate change bureau that would oversee some proposed laws, if they pass. Those include establishing a new clean fuel standard, making New Mexico a hydrogen hub and codifying the commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The bureau also would develop new climate policies.
  • $2.4 million to assure drinking water is safe from contaminants such as PFAS, plus mitigate drought and restore watersheds and wetlands, including those important to the state’s outdoor economy. (PFAS is an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of synthetic, potentially harmful chemicals used in a wide variety of household products and industrial processes.)
  • $2.3 million for 19 jobs within the Hemp and Cannabis Bureau.

A fossil fuel advocate and fierce critic of Lujan Grisham bashed the proposed funding for the climate change bureau and the clean fuel standard it would oversee if enacted into law.

“The newly-created bureaucracy would cost taxpayers more than $166,000 per employee and be put in charge of implementing the governor’s Clean Fuel Standard Act, which will raise gas prices across the state,” Larry Behrens, director of Power the Future’s Western states chapter, said in a statement.”While New Mexico’s families are currently paying gas prices that are 40 percent higher than last year, the governor’s proposal would increase the cost of gas even more.”

State Environment Department Secretary James Kenney described the proposed budget increase as essential, calling it a “huge step forward.”

(15) comments

paul pacheco

When a governor runs the state as a liberal socialist, she’s holding all the cards! It’s her rodeo but someone else’s money! YOURS! But thank goodness (we the people) still have term limits!

paul pacheco

When a governor runs the state as a liberal socialist, she’s holding all the cards! It’s her rodeo but someone else’s money! YOURS! But thank goodness (we the people) still have term limits! She'll get another 4 years due to corruption and lack of education in a poor state!

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]We will be last for much longer.

Susan Gordon

The Governor's proposed increase to the NM Environment Department does not actually increase support for the existing empty staff positions. NMED has an important role in protecting our waters, land and air, yet currently can't complete their jobs due to understaffing. The understaffing is a relic of the Martinez administration and has not been corrected under Gov. Lujan. The base budget for NMED only increases about 5 %. Several senior people in important environmental roles across agencies have left due to the lack of support and funding that makes their jobs nearly impossible to do. Gov Lujan, we need an Environmental Remediation Target Industry in this state, not a Climate Change bureau that will green light a polluting new hydrogen industry supported by fossil fuels. Put the money toward cleanup and put people to work protecting the state's resources. Capping abandoned oil and gas wells and remediating abandoned uranium and other mines would go much further with the existing resources and skills we have in NM without more bureaucracy. Money in the Infrastructure Bill can be leveraged to benefit NM and is earmarked toward cleanup projects. Secure that money for NM not for hydrogen which can never be viewed as clean energy.

Mike Johnson

Just more pork to reward cronies, relatives, and rich, elite special interests. Nothing here will help the people.

Charlotte Rowe

A hydrogen hub is not a bad idea at all. Hopefully the governor will exploit all the environmental and alternative energy research being conducted at both the national labs in New Mexico to facilitate improvements. I know the State offers technology collaboration grants to small businesses so their ideas can be aided with researchers and facilities at the labs, and this is an important area where such partnerships could be pursued. LANL for instance, has done a fair amount of research into hydrogen as an energy source. The Environmental department for the State has been notoriously underfunded and it would be a great development for them to be provided with sufficient funds that they could grow some teeth for enforcement as well as build opportunities for overall improvements.

Chris Mechels

Charlotte, what the Governor is set to exploit is "Blue" hydrogen, not "Green" hydrogen, so check that out. Blue hydrogen is made from natural gas and methane, and, for Climate Change, worse than just burning the natural gas. The Governor relies on you not knowing the difference, or perhaps SHE doesn't know the difference as she seems clueless about science.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Well said Chris, she is clueless about anything except partisan politics and her career.

Lyndell Vallner

And she is also clueless about the developing real science about the Covid experimental shots. Everything she does is political. How well has the last year worked for anybody once her compadres slid into office? Calm down and think about that.

Greg Mello

There's a Hemp and Cannabis Bureau in NMED? Whhhaat?

A new climate change bureau is a good idea, but it should not be tied to implementing bad law. The Governor should reach out to people like Mike Eisenfeld in the Farmington area about her crazy "hydrogen hub" idea, or to the many environmental groups which oppose that idea, because there's no good science or public policy behind it. We brought in experts from Europe in a virtual teach-in a few yards from her office to discuss why this is so, but she couldn't be bothered to send a staffer to listen, learn and question. She appears to be a captive of fossil fuel corporations and the dumb ol' LANL, which seems to have ditched its integrity to make more room for money, on its way to the bank.

Chris Mechels

Yep, a new Cannabis Bureau, to give the "appearance" of oversight. The Cannabis Rules, now being implemented in an ILLEGAL process, will, of course, not have effective oversight, and are not intended to have any. MLG, and Egolf, both benefit from the Cannabis industry financially, and are breaking our laws, esp the Rules Act, repeatedly to install a drug culture in New Mexico. Anyone who believes in "oversight" of Cannabis is, frankly, smoking too much weed... Our corrupt Government is installing a criminal culture, because our government, under MLG, IS a criminal culture.

Michael Kiley

I welcome and support this increase for the environment department, because that is where I live. You too, and the other 7 billions of people on the globe. A fight is coming with big fossil fuel, and we need to be ready to stop the drills and pumps and learn to live without the Devil's ransom. We need to seed alternative energy industry in Farmington and Roswell, for job transition.

Al Chavez

There's one area that it seems to me could be done immediately: slow drivers down. Am I wrong that speeding causes fossil fuel pollution to increase at an ungodly rate?

So go back to using all the technology possible to catch and fine speeders. Use more speed wagons. Suspend the licenses of those who race on city streets (or anywhere). Outlaw muscle cars. Heck, use satellite technology to catch speeders.

Lyndell Vallner

How about let's start with making the world's worst polluter China...accountable and force them to adhere to some sensible Pollution laws. The world shares an atmosphere and global high atmospheric winds blow their pollution our way every day of the year. We are downwind from them. Try as we may...anything we do locally does not do very much to mitigate China's air and ocean pollution "gifts" to us.

Barry Rabkin

No person, no country, and no group of countries such as the UN can make China do anything it does not want to do.

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