Are California grid failures a harbinger of New Mexico's future?

In this week's Intelligencer, problems with California's energy grid are a sign of things to come, mask mandates continue, MLG under fire (again), more corruption by public officials, Tesla opens up shop in New Mexico, and Hispanic voters are not happy with President Biden.

The Intelligencer is a weekly newsletter that gives you a quick overview of La Politica across New Mexico and the U.S., covering topics such as policy, current events, the political landscape, and tech.

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Dax Contreras
Executive Director, Hispanos Unidos

1. California is realizing the limits of renewable energy mandates

gas plant

Details: California's renewable energy push continues to reduce the reliability of the state's energy grid, forcing regulators accept the reality of grid physics and take drastic action in order to prevent energy shortages.

What's happening: California regulators made an emergency request to the Department of Energy to dispatch more than 200 MW of natural gas-fired generation capacity beyond currently permitted levels to make up shortfalls in power supply. CAISO, the California grid operator, has also denied the requests of five existing gas-fired generating facilities to mothball or retire over the last 18 months, preserving more than 400 MW of existing generation supply. These actions also come on the heals of a massive 300 MW battery storage project forced to be taken offline over Labor Day weekend due to overheating of battery modules.

The situation has gotten so drastic that the California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved licenses for additional gas-fired power units to help the state cope with continued electricity shortages after Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier declared a state of emergency for California’s power grid.

What we're watching: Obviously the reliance by California of natural gas-fired power plants is at odds with its push to decarbonize its power supply by 2045, the same goal Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham push for in New Mexico's "Mini-Green New Deal."

Public Service Company of New Mexico, New Mexico's largest electric utility, recently warned of potential power shortages next summer because of the closure of San Juan Generating Station.

The question remains: Will New Mexico accept the lessons learned of following the failed California model, recklessly pushing renewable energy mandates and unproven battery storage? Or will we continue on a path of reduced reliability and higher electricity costs?

2. MLG extends mask mandate, no end in sight


Details: The Governor’s extension of executive “emergency” orders for mandatory masks indoors, including for children as young as 3 years old, whether you’ve had the vax or not, will continue for at least another month. But with even left-wing outlets like the New York Times and The Atlantic asking serious questions about the accuracy of the stats that are used to justify policies that might not even be effective, Lujan Grisham appears oblivious to the science.

Why it matters: Lujan Grisham’s lockdown has wrecked the economy for over a year, as can be seen by the low turnout at the State Fair as well as businesses in general hoping desperately that the end of the lavish unemployment handouts will mean workers will start applying for jobs that must be filled. And now with more federal interference, the Biden administration’s unprecedented threat to use OSHA to coerce companies into forcing vaccines on employees, the outlook for New Mexico’s economy gets more bleak by the day.

The big picture: As the state unnecessarily orders New Mexicans to strap cloth to our faces, many people, concerned about the side effects of the jab or the assault on bodily autonomy (or both), are scrambling for religious exemptions, which infuriates those who seem to care more about control than health and are clearly uninterested in civil liberties.

3. Governor Lujan Grisham denies wrongdoing in shady cannabis deal


The details: Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the Governor’s Office was  “not involved” in the highly criticized last-minute application process that ultimately issued only one very valuable production license for medical marijuana, calling the process “above board.”

Why they're saying: “In my opinion, this was a dirty affair,” said Willie Ford, managing director of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, a consulting firm for cannabis businesses. “This was obviously somebody making it happen for somebody else.”

State Senator Jacob Candelaria also blasted the Lujan-Grisham administration, “Let me just be very, very clear… It is the height of cynicism, hypocrisy and doublespeak for [Grisham appointee] Dr. Zurlo to say one thing to the District Court when it benefits the Department of Health and say an entirely different thing today to cover up what seems to be a pretty glaring abuse of power.”

Candelaria has now publicly called for the state auditor and attorney general to open an investigation.

4. Corruption & punishment?


Slap justice in the face: The former head of New Mexico Tax & Revenue, Demesia Padilla, was convicted of using her position to embezzle $25K from a trucking company. But Padilla, who faced faced 18 years in prison, was only sentenced to 5 years probation and community service. She must also pay $25K in restitution. So she avoided prison and broke even financially. Does this slap on the wrist have anything to do with the fact that she was a government bureaucrat?

No transparency for investigation: The Superintendent of Española’s public school district resigned after an investigation into his handling of sexual misconduct at his old job. The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit in 2020, which included complaints that led to criminal prosecutions. The school board says that although they knew about these complaints, they hired him anyway. The school board will not release the investigation to the public. Is this a quiet cover up?

A bully’s pulpit: Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber has been sued by Union Protectiva, an advocacy group for Spanish heritage that accused Webber of “bullying” while also using city-sponsored recreational events to campaign for re-election. The lawsuit was in response to Webber’s attempt to force Union Protectiva, the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to disclose their private donations. These groups opposed Webber’s support of the mob violence that toppled a monument honoring Union soldiers. A Santa Fe ethics board voted 4-0 to dismiss Webber’s claims.

5. Tesla opened its first facility in New Mexico in partnership with the Nambé Pueblo


Details: Electric car manufacturer Tesla made national news when it opened up its first sales and service center in New Mexico this week thanks to a first-of-its-kind partnership with a tribal nation.  

Background: New Mexico has laws on the books that prohibit car makers from selling directly to customers without going through third-party dealerships, and the dealership lobby has been historically very effective in killing changes to the law during legislative sessions.

What they're saying: “This location will not only create permanent jobs, it is also part of a long-term relationship with Tesla. As the company is working with Nambé Pueblo to provide education and training opportunities for tribal members, as well as economic development,” Nambé Pueblo Gov. Phillip Perez said during the opening.

6. President Biden not popular with Hispanics


Details: A new major poll shows Biden is underperforming with a crucial voting bloc: only 38 percent of Hispanics surveyed approve of how the president is running the country while nearly half disapprove.

Why it matters: Although it’s unclear whether the president will run for a second term, the fact that he is so unpopular with one of the crucial members of a voter coalition that Democrats need to win has the Left very worried about next year’s midterms and even beyond.

The big picture: As the final polling and election results ultimately revealed, Hispanics were against the recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom and are the biggest supporters of our own Governor, MLG, so it’s hard to predict if the national discontent with President Biden will have an impact in New Mexico elections. Republicans in the Land of Enchantment have an opportunity to finally reach out to Hispanics. But will they seize on the opportunity or let it slip by? Only time will tell.