The village of Kivalina in Alaska, once home to a traditional Inupiat Eskimo community, is now seeking refuge due to the melting of sea ice causing uninhabitable conditions for the village. With climate change quickly becoming a reality, Indigenous peoples around the globe are feeling the affects of droughts, floods and other climate catastrophes. New Mexicans are no different and action is being taken. The New Energy Economy and the Southwest Indigenous Uranium Forum called on Honor the Earth for help in mitigating climate change and to help promote regulatory limits on the amount of greenhouse gases polluting New Mexico's air.
Together with the New Energy Economy (NEE) and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NM ELC), Honor the Earth and others have taken a bold stance to tell utility companies and the oil & gas industry, 'No More!' For years, energy companies like Albuquerque's PNM, have been taking advantage of New Mexico families, low-income families and minority communities by poisoning the air. By burning coal and other fossil fuels, these industries are releasing mass amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air that eventually fall into New Mexico's already-scarce water sources, onto the land that feeds New Mexico livestock and onto the food that fuels New Mexico's agriculture industry. The tribal peoples of New Mexico deserve better. The days of making tribal reservations sarifical energy zones must come to an end. Together, a petition has been filed before the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) which calls for a 25 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emission below 1990 levels by 2020. If passed, the regulation will be the most stringent state carbon standard in the country.
With a week-long scheduled hearing, the proponents for clean air enlisted expert witnesses from all over the country and beyond to discuss the importance of capping carbon. As a trained rural economist, Winona LaDuke was invited to speak at the EIB hearings to provide expert testimony on tribal economies. As with all battles against coal, gas, and oil companies, there are a number of hurdles that stand in the way. With over a week's worth of testimony from technical, climate and economic experts, those hurdles were the number of slick, expensive suits (paid for by the oil, gas, and coal companies) who packed the opposing counsel's table. With huge revenues from coal, gas & oil, these industries pay big bucks for attorneys that will keep them happy and continue to provide for their combusting businesses.
On the stand, LaDuke said, "You could either be in the back seat of the bus and letting everybody drive the choices, or you could make the choices ahead of time and ensure that you have a strong economy." Winona was able to testify at the hearing, submit written testimony for the Board and was also cross-examined into the early morning hours. Drawing out crowds from the community, the hearing also heard accounts from Tina Garnanes, a young Navajo student who spoke out at the public hearing to express her disdain for the effects of pollution in the Farmington area, describing it as living in the toxic shadows of coal plants.
Currently, the petition is on hold, but will be reconvened on October 4th in Santa Fe for final decisions before the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board.