We Need a Just Transition, and We Need it Now
New Mexico has long relied on the extraction of fossil fuels to power its economy, and in recent years has left the state with a multi-billion dollar surplus. It has also left communities engaged in labor out of the immense wealth generated by these multinational corporations, and has resulted in egregious health consequences to communities, with two regions of the state enrobed in an internationally-recognized methane hotspot.
The Southwest has a long history of sacrificing Indigenous communities for the benefit of capital, whether through uranium extraction, hydrogen development, or other fossil fuels. With less than seven years left to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by half compared to 2005 levels according to the IPCC, we have an ambitious yet necessary timeline; we have no choice but to commit ourselves to an all-hands-on-deck battle against climate change or face certain extinction. However, in this transition comes opportunity: we must also use this challenge to empower Indigenous workers and communities across the state through worker retraining programs, grant programs, higher education, and humane job opportunities.
We must use the capital gained through the extraction of our communities to give back to us, repair some of the harm done, and invest in people and our planet.
In other words, we need a just transition.
The provisions proposed in House Bill 188 support these communities and ensure an equitable and sustainable transition. HB188 aims to create an Economic Transition Division within the Economic Development Department, specifically focusing on aiding communities and workers disproportionately impacted by the transition from natural resource extraction industries.
The ETD would provide programmatic funding and administrative and logistical support to communities in economic transition, ensuring that the benefits of the transition are most accessible to the people who created the wealth for large corporations — it also provides that our communities are in the driver's seat, shaping an energy transition that most benefits us and accounts for economic and cultural implications.
Another critical component of HB188 is the creation of a non-reverting economic transition fund, which would provide grants and loans to support communities and workers impacted by the transition for projects vital to them. Notably, the bill requires regular reporting and oversight of the fund's activities to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.
Indigenous communities are often disproportionately affected by extractive industries in the state. Let's remember our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters who also work in these industries; all of the provisions within HB188 help them too. Across race, gender, political affiliation, and geographic location, we all deserve for our communities to be invested in and given a leg up.
We all deserve safe air and water and to work in jobs that make us feel good. Our communities can pursue sustainable economic development and self-determination with the Economic Transition Division's funding and technical support.
As we work towards a more sustainable and equitable future, we must support those most impacted by this transition, and HB188 provides a promising path forward. It’s time to finally take action.
Wendy Atcitty is an Indigenous Energy Organizer for Naeva, and a lobbyist for NM Native Vote.