New Mexico leaders are so serious about climate change that they created a state Climate Change Bureau.
The state’s Environment Department announced this week the formation of the new bureau along with a Cannabis and Hemp Bureau. and also said there would be funding for a number of high priority programs related to water infrastructure improvements, clean-up of former uranium mine sites, per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) exposure prevention, protecting the public from harmful air pollution, and more.
The Climate Change Bureau, the first such Bureau in state history, will lead the department’s climate change initiatives, including legislative, regulatory, and compliance initiatives. The bureau will play a significant role in the Climate Change Task Force, working across state government to coordinate policies and actions to meet the state’s ambitious climate goals of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 economy wide and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, in accordance with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Executive Order 2019-003.
The Climate Change Bureau is funded by a $730,000 recurring appropriation from the legislature that will support five new positions. While this is smaller than the 15-position bureau requested by the governor, the bureau is wasting no time in developing innovative next steps for the state’s climate strategy.
The Cannabis and Hemp Bureau will oversee the department’s efforts to ensure that cannabis and hemp-based food products are produced in accordance with food safety regulations. The new bureau will collaborate closely with the Regulation and Licensing Department’s Cannabis Control Division.
The Cannabis and Hemp Bureau is funded by a $449,000 recurring appropriation from the legislature which was $1.9M less than the Governor’s budget request for the Environment Department. Currently, the Environment Department regulates 33 hemp facilities and has processed 160 self-certifications for cannabis edible facilities across the state.
“Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Lujan Grisham, we are truly coming into a brighter future for our state, with more staff than ever before fully dedicated to tackling the climate crisis and a new team to support the state’s already multi-million-dollar cannabis industry,” said Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Of course, New Mexicans can also expect that we will continue our work to serve communities around the state to protect our environment and public health.”
“Under the leadership of Gov. Lujan Grisham, New Mexicans are seeing new economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and communities across the state with its newest cannabis industry,” said Superintendent Linda Trujillo. “The Regulation and Licensing Department looks forward to partnering with the Cannabis and Hemp Bureau to ensure public health and safety for this robust and growing industry.”
In addition to the funding that established the two new bureaus, the department also received funding for the following initiatives.
- $1.14 million for resilient water infrastructure to mitigate water systems against extreme drought from climate change and for addressing emerging contaminants through increased drinking water sampling programs.
- $825,000 to develop and implement initiatives that protect the public from exposure to PFAS at Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base and elsewhere in the state.
- $660,000 for planning, administration, and oversight of uranium mine remediation and cleanup.
- $500,000 to begin implementing a document digitization and management system that allows the public to access the department’s files online.
- $450,000 to address ozone pollution generated outside of New Mexico and transported into the state, a major cause of asthma attacks.
- $300,000 to provide technical assistance on worker compensation claims related to exposure to radioactive materials and to implement radioactive material licensing requirements.
- $190,000 for investments in programs to protect rivers, lakes and other surface waters of the state.
- $185,000 to enable greater inspections at solid waste facilities across New Mexico.
- $60,000 to subsidize the costs of computer-based examinations for water and wastewater utility operators, which create more opportunities for rural water and wastewater systems to retain certified operators.