Our environment is endangered | My View

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Last week, when the Trump administration began its formal withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, the president sent a clear signal to the rest of the world:

The United States government once again will surrender its standing as a global leader, leaving state and local citizens and leaders to take up the mantle of climate action in this country.

Our environment is endangered. Our land, our air and water are imperiled by the effects of climate change. We do not have the luxury of inaction.

More than two dozen governors, representing more than half the U.S. states, have vowed to stand up and fight for meaningful climate action and environmental protections at the state level. I’m one of them. The states that make up the U.S. Climate Alliance have taken up this work on several fronts. In New Mexico, we’re making important progress.

We have passed an aggressive renewable energy law, we’re going to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and we have begun the essential work of moving toward a zero-carbon economy. We’re going to implement responsible clean car standards. We’re directing millions toward ecosystem resiliency to protect water resources and minimize the risks of catastrophic wildfire. We’re going to make state government as energy efficient as it can be, investing tens of millions into solar and electric vehicles and efficiency upgrades that will save us millions on our electric bills. And, of course, a crucial component: We will continue to build out our state economy so we can have sustainable revenue streams beyond just one volatile industry.

I have been clear with that industry on their role in our balanced and yet unequivocal climate approach: We recognize climate change as the threat it is to our planet and state, and we will be doing everything we must in order to combat it and improve the quality of life and health of New Mexicans. While that industry’s business is key to the current economic well-being of our state, the well-being of our state depends on clean air, soil and water. The oil and gas industry must do its part to protect public health and has a non-negotiable responsibility to develop resources wisely and within a fair regulatory framework, minimizing negative health impacts on New Mexico communities.

The state is enforcing accountability. My Environment Department continues to accelerate investigations at well pads, storage tanks, gas plants and compressor stations, ensuring the industry catches and fixes leaks as quickly as possible. We’re embracing innovation such as aerial surveillance and enacting new tools to track and mitigate ozone and methane leaks. We’re also leading to develop new applications and technologies, like replacing flares with fuel cells, to convert stranded gas to electricity. We’re engaging stakeholders at every step of the way and ensuring science leads the conversation. We are clear as to who we are in this moment — leaders with a vision and clear strategy.

The state of New Mexico must — and will — hold all industries, all sectors of our economy, accountable, from oil and gas to agriculture to transportation and beyond. To be sure, we must also hold ourselves to a higher standard individually and do what we can as citizens of the globe to reduce our emissions and modify our consumption.

But to reach the emission levels we know we must reach in a limited amount of time, we must start with rules to reduce oil and gas methane emissions while also moving to more and broader climate pollution reduction efforts, including economy-wide, market-based mechanisms. And the rules my administration will enact to protect New Mexicans from methane pollution will serve as an example to the rest of the country.

When the Trump administration takes us backward on climate action, as it did last week, we must take two steps forward. New Mexico will continue to advance the subject on climate action and environmental protection. I want all New Mexicans — across regions, across industries, across communities and political leanings and generations — to take part in our transformation to a clean energy leader, to help us lead in reducing harmful emissions, addressing the threat of climate change and strengthening our economy for the 21st century and beyond.

Michelle Lujan Grisham is the governor of New Mexico.

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