Here is my response to Valencia Renewables.
Questions for Valencia County Commission Candidates
1. What are the roles and responsibilities of a County Commissioner?
The role of each commissioner is to represent the constituents of their district. When convened as The Valencia County Commission, the individual commissioners represent all of Valencia County.
The responsibilities of the commissioners are to represent the plurality and diversity of their districts with honesty, integrity and transparency.
The Valencia County Commission sets policy for the Valencia County Administration; monitors progress, approves budgets, expenditures and significant purchases, and sets priorities. The Commission is responsible for the business of the county.
2. If you become County Commissioner, what are your commitments to the position?
I am committed to treat the position as a full time job, making myself available at all times and days while working for the people of Valencia County and promoting my platform as described below.
3. What do you see as the relationship between the County Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission?
P&Z Committee members are appointed to represent each district by that districts’ commissioner. In this way, the P&Z members represent the commissioner, reflecting the commissioners policies and philosophies of government.
4. What is your agenda for being a County Commissioner?
My agenda (platform) is as follows:
Build the Hospital with a sustainable business model.
Water is Life in the Desert.
Protect the “Green Belt” - agricultural land in the county.
Parks and Recreation.
Planning & Zoning to protect and develop our agricultural heritage while encouraging economic development.
Support for Law Enforcement.
Support for Fire Protection/Fire Departments.
Extend Infrastructure - end the “Digital Divide.”
Generate Renewable Power in the county.
Recycling programs county wide.
5. Recently ENGIE performed a preliminary energy audit for the County. What do you think about the information and recommendations Engie presented?
My career included decades of facility management, so I have an extensive knowledge of the benefits, complexity and impact of this project/proposal/energy audit. First, we must decide the priority; reduction of carbon footprint or cost to the county.
If our priority is reduction in carbon footprint, PNM states as of 2019 that it provides 44% of our energy from renewable sources and will supply 100% of our energy from renewable sources by 2040. The proposal from ENGIE presents a timeline of about 2 years to implement, then the energy reductions become significant.
The cost priority leads us to the same destination as the reduction in carbon footprint priority, but with a shorter payback. With the ENGIE project, Valencia County will have a reduced carbon footprint in about two years, but not be saving money for twenty years. The County will continue to pay for the ENGIE project for eighteen years after the project has been completed, however and will therefore not see a net reduction in cost over those eighteen years.
My preference would be to use the ENGIE energy audit as a roadmap to make improvements and repairs to existing buildings and infrastructure while partnering with PNM and/or other energy suppliers to provide 100% of Valencia County’s energy needs from renewable sources more quickly.
ENGIE provided some great examples, “HID streetlights are among the County highest annual utility expenses” and “LED streetlights save 60% in energy costs.” Based upon the provided Energy Use Intensity graph, I would direct my focus to the courthouse for its electrical consumption and Jarales FD for its natural gas uses. Utilizing the data provided can yield some excellent, measurable results.
As Commissioner, I would implement goals via policy and provide direction to all departments to implement energy saving lighting, HVAC, appliances, building automation systems (BAS), etc., as a part of their everyday operations. These goals should be connected to annual performance for directors ensuring ongoing reductions.
As Commissioner, I would also update county residential building codes to require Energy Star rated products and require government buildings to seek LEED Green Building Certification.
6. What is the most appropriate future direction of Valencia County in these areas:
a) Development (commercial development, housing development, etc. )
My vision for Valencia County is for commercial and residential development to be outside the Green Zone: irrigated agricultural areas of the valley. This would, over time, return the agricultural Green Zone to farmland.
Agriculture in the form of produce, fiber, orchards, vineyards, beef, dairy, alfalfa and produce conversion businesses that spawn local small businesses.
Renewable power generation would be located away from populated areas on either side of the valley. The goal is to become a net power exporter and provide well paying jobs.
b) Water conservation
According to The Business Water Task Force, 2010; New Mexico receives about 10 inches of precipitation annually. Of that water, New Mexico loses 7% of its surface water to evaporation, the public uses about 8% and agriculture uses 78%. The balance goes to mining, industrial power generation, etc.
Ag uses 78%, but conservation only focuses on municipal uses. Even river flows are regulated to preserve endangered species. Water law is very complex, filling volumes, and this equation only fuels the water management crisis in New Mexico. At all levels of government, we need to work with farmers to ensure that their water rights are protected for agriculture, not short changed for society, while adequately compensating farmers for this precious commodity. At the local level we need to work to influence farming practices that provide products for our community with low water consuming plants.
c) Farmland preservation
I have already stated my vision of preservation of the Green Zone. Land zoned for agriculture must remain as farmland.
As a function of economics, this will increase the value of properties within the Green Zone that are currently zoned for residential and commercial purposes, making the outlying tracts of land more attractive economically for those purposes.
Valencia County is uniquely situated with resources that can be an agricultural powerhouse for New Mexico. County government must work with and for agriculture to facilitate and encourage complementary businesses that incorporate Valencia County products.
Imagine Valencia County agricultural products available at growers markets, local and regional markets with name brand recognition like Hatch Green Chili.