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City of Las Cruces Works Toward Zero-Carbon Development

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City of Las Cruces
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A resolution in support of zero-carbon development, which utilizes electric and solar as energy sources, is being considered by the Las Cruces City Council. Impacting only new municipal construction, City Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque says the ultimate goal is to power new buildings through the use of renewable energy.

“This resolution is about making a building potentially greenhouse gas free because it's all-electric, and electricity can ultimately be delivered through renewable energy,” LaRocque said. 

City Sustainability Specialist Jenny Hernandez says the resolution also addresses current technical barriers, including the need for training. 

“What we're proposing for this barrier is that we do an annual conference that provides guidance and education on zero-carbon development,” Hernandez said. “We think that will really help get everyone the understanding that they need, but also the training, right, the technical portion.” 

The policy is being introduced as a resolution, rather than a more formal ordinance, to give the city greater freedom to make additional changes. It’s an idea supported by Councilor Gabe Vasquez, who noted the importance of continual evaluation.

“I think it's the right thing to do,” Vasquez said. “I appreciate that ability to kind of perfect and troubleshoot the kinks or the potential difficulties or challenges, moving forward before it gets codified into an ordinance.”

Mayor Ken Miyagishima says he would like to see the city utilize more third-party agreements to save money on electric costs. Beyond that, he also advocated for emergency access to natural gas.  

“For some reason, I just don't quite feel that this future resolution addresses what I think council would like to see,” Miyagishima said. “Slowed elimination of greenhouse gases, still recognizing the investment that utilities is putting in but at the same time in the event of an emergency have access to it.” 

The housing and neighborhood services department says additional consultation needs to be done with non-profit city partners to ensure affordable housing projects stay affordable. City Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque says the federal Justice40 initiative is set up to help the lower to moderate income community take advantage of clean energy funding opportunities.

“The infrastructure and reconciliation grants that will be coming out all have a condition on them called Justice40,” LaRocque said. “40% of the funds have to go to the LMI community. Criteria has to show that they have made an impact. So all of these different incentives, rebate programs, grant programs are such that it would be fiscally irresponsible not to follow these guidelines and these grant opportunities to be able to maximize what you could do for these communities.” 

Councilor Gill Sorg, who is in support of the resolution, says it builds on New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act and helps the city take control of its clean energy future. 

“We need a path to a clean energy future,” Sorg said. “The state has already done that with their energy act that they passed a couple of years ago. And so, this is just part of that path.”

The council is expected to vote on the resolution in late December.

 

Madison Staten is a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media. You can hear her stories on KRWG-FM and watch on KRWG-TV's Newsmakers.