Sierra Club Representative Misleads in New Mexico Renewable Mandate Hearings

Published March 24, 2015

The Sierra Club appears to be hiding its efforts to prevent the New Mexico legislature from freezing the state’s renewable energy mandate at 15 percent.

The New Mexico House of Representatives Energy, Environment & Natural Resources Committee held hearings in late February on House Bill 445, which would freeze the state’s renewable power mandate at 15 percent, cancelling a scheduled tightening of the renewable power mandate to 20 percent by 2020. The bill passed the House March 12.

State Rep. Larry Scott (R-Dist. 62), sponsor of HB 445, says he sees it as a way to raise public awareness of the costs of the renewable energy mandate.

“In the mid-2000s, legislation was passed to mandate increasing amounts of renewable power be delivered by electricity providers, increasing to 20 percent by 2020,” Scott said. “The environmental community has dominated the debate up until now, but there has been no real dialogue concerning the true costs and benefits to consumers. This bill starts that dialogue.”

Biased Testimony?

Among those testifying before the committee against the bill was Elliott Stern, who identified himself as a “small business owner” whose company “is not directly affected by the bill.” Stern, however, is hardly a disinterested party to the proposed bill. He is co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s Northern New Mexico Rio-Grande Chapter’s Energy Committee and an Activism Team Member.

The Rio Grande Sierra Club chapter lobbied for the original renewable energy mandate on its own and as part of the New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy.

The business Stern claims to be part owner of and business developer for is SolarLogic LLC, which designs and installs solar and hydronic renewable energy systems and thus benefits from renewables mandates.

Why Stern concealed his interest in the mandate freeze is unclear.

New Mexico Part of Trend

If New Mexico freezes its renewable energy mandate, it will join Ohio, which capped its standard in 2014. West Virginia rescinded its mandate entirely in January 2015.

Paul Gessing, president of the New Mexico-based Rio Grande Foundation, said freezing the rates would be a blessing to consumers, “Since adopting its current, aggressive renewable portfolio standard, New Mexicans have seen their electricity rates rise dramatically, with rates jumping nearly 40 percent for residential customers over that time frame,” he said.

“The effort to freeze New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard at 15 percent, where it currently stands, rather than allowing it to rise to 20 percent by 2020 as is planned, would provide welcome relief for New Mexicans facing a still-struggling state economy and the prospect of even more rapid growth in electricity costs,” Gessing said.

New Mexico State Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Dist. 51), chair of the Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee said, “This is a great bill for consumers because it should mitigate residential electricity price increases resulting from renewable portfolio standards.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow and H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is a research fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.