Opinion: State lauds progress on sustainability issues as Earth Day nears
On Thursday April 22, we celebrate Earth Day, a time to give thanks for our environment and to recommit ourselves to addressing the threats it faces.
In New Mexico, we are blessed with one of the most diverse environments in the world, from the forested Rocky Mountains in the north to the high plains in the east, from the tablelands and mesas in the west to the Chihuahuan Desert in the south.
But as in the rest of the world, our environment is threatened by climate change. Its effects are all around us: record heat, diseased forests, larger wildfires and mountain snowpacks that run off too quickly.
In January 2019, shortly after taking office, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order to address climate change. The order’s objective is to achieve a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 45 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.
Much has been accomplished since the governor’s order, including passage of legislation to transition New Mexico to all renewable energy and enactment of rules to work with the oil and gas industry to responsibly reduce methane emissions.
But Lujan Grisham also believes state government should do its part and lead by example. She ordered all agencies to evaluate their impacts on climate change and take action to mitigate it. The General Services Department is proud to do its part.
Later this year, the New Mexico General Services Department is scheduled to substantially complete its State Buildings Green Energy Project, an initiative to cut the energy consumption of 30 buildings in Santa Fe and reduce state government’s carbon footprint.
The $32 million project, which began in 2019 and is managed by the department’s Facilities Management Division, includes rooftop and carport solar arrays, installation of window film, water conservation measures and upgrades to HVAC systems and controls, lighting and transformers.
The project, implemented by contractor Trane U.S. Inc., will reduce the buildings’ electric consumption by 50 percent and save the state a guaranteed $1.1 million a year. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from lower electric use will be the equivalent of taking 1,200 passenger vehicles off the road each year.
And we are doing more at the General Services Department.
We have purchased 35 all-electric vehicles and bought additional hybrid vehicles for our Motor Pool, which serves much of state government. We’ve installed 30 charging stations on state government campuses across Santa Fe to serve both public and private electric vehicles.
In partnership with the Department of Information of Technology, we are leading the effort to implement electronic-signature technology for government documents. The implementation means documents will no longer have to be printed and circulated for so-called wet signatures. That will sharply reduce paper use by state agencies.
Through our State Purchasing Division, we are also making it easier for state and local governments to choose sustainable products – such as eco-friendly cleaning supplies and recycled paper – when using statewide price agreements to purchase goods.
This Earth Day, let’s celebrate the progress in New Mexico to address climate change. But let’s also recognize that much remains to be done to reach the emissions-reduction goal set by the governor.
We need to recommit ourselves to the additional work ahead to safeguard our cherished environment for future generations of New Mexicans. The General Services Department will continue to do its part by being a leader in reducing state government’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Ken Ortiz serves as the New Mexico General Services Department secretary.