Deb Haaland, New Mexico’s U.S. Congressional representative for District 1, visited El Cabo wind farm and held a town hall meeting in Moriarty Aug. 13. Her visit to the area focused on renewable energy and environmental issues.

Haaland climbed to the top of a wind generator at Avangrid Renewables’ El Cabo wind generating facility 10 miles east of Encino. The representative donned a full climbing harness, and with safety line attached, ascended the 312-foot-tall ladder on the inside of the tower to see the inner workings of electrical generation.

Haaland is vice-chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and chairwoman of the subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands.

Twenty-five percent of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere in the United States comes from public lands, Haaland told The Independent. 

“I want to get that down,” she said. “That means fewer gas and oil projects and more renewable energy projects. We need to plant trees on public lands and preserve public lands and not give them up to extractive industries.”

Haaland espoused measures like reusable water bottles and other items: “You can take your own bag to the grocery store; you can take your own coffee cup when you get coffee somewhere; we don’t use straws when we go to restaurants.” 

Avangrid’s managing director Kevin Lynch told The Independent, “The national government has provided tax incentives for wind, solar and geothermal over the years and those credits are now phasing out. Other forms of energy get preferential treatment in the tax code. If ours are going away, then maybe everybody else’s should too.”

Lynch said, “There are all kinds of subsidies for oil, gas, coal, minerals. Nuclear—there’s a national policy that limits the liability of a nuclear power operator to a certain amount of money in case of an accident, a certain defined limit, and anything above that limit is the responsibility of all of us.”

He went on to say, “This [presidential] administration is trying to foster energy development of all types on public lands. Public lands offer a great opportunity to access this type of energy.”

Later that evening Haaland held a town hall meeting at Moriarty Civic Center, attended by about 25 people who asked her questions about current topics.

Asked by one citizen about the role of government in addressing climate change, Haaland said she has sponsored legislation to move New Mexico toward 100 percent renewable energy by around 2035. “I feel it’s the federal government’s obligation to move our country, our state, forward and make sure we have grant money for folks who can’t afford it.”

A man from Mountainair asked about impeachment of the president, saying his behavior warranted such action. Haaland agreed that the president’s behavior warranted an impeachment inquiry and said she has supported it. She said the House needs 218 votes to move forward with the inquiry, and that effort now has about 120 votes.

Asked about the detention of immigrant children separated from their parents, Haaland, a Democrat, said the U.S. Senate, led by Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has refused to bring to the floor for a vote relevant legislation passed by the House.

Haaland said immigrants threatened in their own countries see the United States as a place they can go to be safe, adding, “And we have to say, ‘No you’re not going to be safe here anymore.’ I will be guided by how I was raised to treat children and adults, and do what I think is right.”

Another citizen asked about her efforts on gun control. Haaland said she has supported extended background checks and a ban on assault rifles. “The NRA [National Rifle Association] owns so many members of congress, it’s very sad to me that they’re not listening to their constituents on this issue,” she said.

A woman asked Haaland about the Trump administration’s recent modification of the Endangered Species Act. “We are going to absolutely raise hell about this,” Haaland said. “We’ll do every single thing we can.”

Haaland has co-sponsored several bills in the house addressing renewable energy, including HR 3794 Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act; HR 3961 Renewable Energy Extension Act; HR 3609 Wind Energy Research and Development Act; HR 2704 Renewable Energy Transferability Act; HR 2495 Energy Technology Maturation Act, among others.

She has also signed on to bills addressing climate change.