The Fight Over New Mexico’s Green Building Codes

Last month the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned a 2011 decision by the state Construction Industries Commission to delete green building codes put in place by former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration to protect consumers and the environment. The codes had been adopted after an 18-month comprehensive public process that included input from a variety of different interests. The court said the commission failed to provide reasons for changing the construction standards and ordered the case to be returned to the commission, appointed by current Gov. Susana Martinez, for reconsideration and a new vote.

The Martinez administration, as part of its agenda to make NM more “business-friendly” has said that the building requirements, which impact energy conservation, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems, were too expensive for developers and property owners.

New Mexico Regulation and Licensing, which includes the Construction Industries Commission, responded to the court’s ruling by saying that the state will continue to enforce the 2011 codes because the Court of Appeals only ordered reconsideration, a new vote and a statement of reasons for the vote, and did not address the merits of the codes.

The NM Environmental Law Center has asked the court to hold the Construction Industries Division in contempt. “I have never seen a situation in which somebody, anybody, has announced in a press release that they were going to violate a court order,” said NMELC executive director Doug Meiklejohn.

The commission may take the case to the NM Supreme Court.

 

NM Green Building Tax Credits Extended through 2016

The NM Energy Conservation and Management Division has extended the date for sustainable residential and commercial tax credits through 2016. The fund for residential tax credits already reached its $5 million cap before the end of 2012. As a result, $1.9 million in residential applications were rolled into this year. The tax credits that are approved this year will be rolled into the 2014 fund made available by the legislation signed by Gov. Martinez last month. The tax credits encourage energy-efficiency and are an incentive for building higher quality buildings.

 

National Green Job Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since 2010, green jobs have grown into a $290 million industry, 4 times faster than all other industries combined. Green jobs accounted for 2.6 percent of all jobs nationally, totaling over 3.4 million.

The BLS defines green jobs as those that produce goods or services “that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources,” or jobs “in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.”

  • Growth in the organic food sector outpaced conventional food – 238 percent vs. 33 percent over the past decade.
  • Consumption of renewable energy grew 456 percent while energy from non-renewable fuels fell 3.8 percent.
  • Green Building expanded during the recession while conventional building shrank by 17 percent.
  • More than $3 billion has moved out of Wall Street banks and into community banks and credit unions.
  • Fair Trade certified foods grew 1,442 percent over the last decade.

Further data on green jobs may be lost due to budget cuts incurred as a result of the sequestration. The BLS has discontinued its reporting on employment in green goods and services to reduce expenditures to protect core programs.

 

Santa Fe Launches Mobile App for Low-Impact Living

The city of Santa Fe’s Sustainable Santa Fe Program has launched a new kind of tool for the city: JouleBug, a mobile app that makes a game of low-impact living. Inspired by software executive Grant Williard’s own experience trying to understand and apply the thousands of ways to go green, JouleBug is designed to provide simple tips for acting responsibly and saving money.

The app, available on all smart phones, is a free download. Members can watch videos and see cost-savings estimates to learn the benefits of actions such as riding the bus to work or school. Once an action is completed, users can “Buzz It” to compete with friends and earn points toward local contests. There is also a scoreboard that displays Santa Fe’s green champions.

A contest has been launched on the campuses of Santa Fe Community College, Institute of American Indian Arts and St. John’s College to encourage students to use this app. The contest runs until May 10. The student with the most points will receive a $50 gift certificate to the campus bookstore or an iPod shuffle. The college with the most players signed up by May 10 will receive a $400 donation to its sustainability club for campus improvement projects such as community garden installations, recycling outreach and energy-efficient renovations. The city plans to host more competitions among the wider community. For more information, visit www.joulebug.com/santafe

 

Self-Care Revolution Weekend in Santa Fe • June 20-23

“Self-care is the true health care” is the motto of the Self-Care Revolution, presented by Santa Fe Soul Health & Healing Center. The holistic and preventative medicine center, directed by Robyn Benson, is hosting a live special event, June 20-23, as part of its yearlong educational series. Self-care coaches and the center’s practitioners, along with world-renowned speakers, will offer workshops, films and demonstrations. Santa Fe Soul is located at 2905 Rodeo Park East #3.

The opening ceremony is on June 20, along with by a talk by Dr. Norm Shealy and a screening of the film Redwood Highway by James Twyman. For more information, call 505.474.8555, email info@jointheselfcarerevolution.com or visit www.jointheselfcarerevolution.com/self-care-bliss-weekend-2013

 

2013 BizMIX Competition

Applications are being accepted from aspiring entrepreneurs through May 16 for the Santa Fe BizMIX 2013 Business Plan Competition. The annual competition awards finalists a cash prize, as well as business consulting services for companies that will benefit Santa Fe.

Last year several companies were launched and four finalists were chosen out of 70 applicants. Winners included PlanitMapper, a mobile app for outdoor enthusiasts, Pants Off, a local silkscreen company, Soapbox Kids, a school fundraising company; and The Way We Grow, an agricultural product business.

Visit mixsantafe.com for more information.

 

Mora County Becomes First in the US to Ban Extraction of Oil and Gas

On April 29, at a special meeting called by the Mora County Board of Commissioners to vote on a “Community Bill of Rights,” Mora became the first county in the US to permanently ban the extraction of oil and gas. The Commission released the following statement:

For years, Mora County has been threatened by “hydro-fracking,” along with other forms of oil and gas extraction. After enacting a temporary moratorium on oil and gas drilling, the County Commissioners adopted a local bill of rights that permanently bans the extraction of oil and gas within the County. In doing so, they follow the lead of over three dozen municipalities on the East Coast – including the city of Pittsburgh – who have adopted local bills of rights to ban “fracking” and other extraction.

The Community Bill of Rights – known as the “Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance” – establishes the right of Mora residents to unpolluted water for agriculture, the right to a sustainable and renewable energy future, and the right to self-government. It also recognizes that ecosystems and natural communities – that could be damaged by oil and gas extraction – have a right to exist and flourish. It then prohibits corporations from extracting hydrocarbons, engaging in the sale of water for energy extraction, or constructing pipelines or other infrastructure to distribute oil and gas.

To protect the enforceability of the ordinance, the law also refuses to recognize that oil and gas corporations possess constitutional and other legal rights within the County of Mora, nullifies state and federal permits issued in violation of the ordinance, and imposes strict liability on corporations engaged in oil and gas operations in neighboring municipalities.

John Olivas, the chairman of the Mora County Commissioners, declared, “It’s time for all communities to do what we’ve done – announce the end to extractive activities that threaten our land, our water and our way of life. If the federal and state government won’t do it, we must. The people and lands of our communities must come first, not the profits of gas and oil corporations.”

Alfonso Griego, vice-chairman of the Mora County Commissioners, explained,
“We’re prepared to fight for this ordinance – it’s the only thing standing in the way of oil and gas corporations. Redefining the rights and powers of those corporation – so that our residents have more rights than corporate decision makers – is an essential part of our local Bill of Rights.”

Olivas and Griego both called on the New Mexico Legislature to adopt a bill that would protect NM counties that adopt similar legislation. A new organization, the NM Coalition for Community Rights, was created last year by residents of several communities across the state to support that effort.