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City to begin moving away from natural gas, toward zero-emissions fleet


Color the energy future of the City of Las Cruces greener than before.

At its April 5 regular meeting, the city council voted unanimously to begin transitioning city residents and businesses from natural gas to renewable energy resources, and transition the city fleet to zero-emissions vehicles.

One resolution passed by the council means the city will begin a plan to phase out natural gas service during the next 30 years, said City Utilities Director Delilah Walsh.

During the transition, it will be essential for the city to ensure that existing natural gas service remain safe and affordable, Walsh told council members during the online meeting.

The city has owned and operated a natural gas utility for 85 years, the city said in a council action and executive summary of the resolution.

The resolution “is in line with our state government,” Councilor Gill Sorg said, including a community solar bill passed by the 2021 New Mexico Legislature. “This is all coming together,” Sorg said. “We’re making a transition of our energy in this state and our city and in fact in the whole country.”

At the same time, “don’t be so alarmed right now about switching” from natural gas to renewable energy, he said. “This is a long-term plan. It’s a complex plan. It’s going to be a gradual transition over time.”

The council also unanimously passed a resolution to transition the city fleet to zero-emissions vehicles.

That transmission is necessary because 53 percent of citywide greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, city Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque told the council.

As part of its support of the Paris Climate Agreement and the city’s sustainability action plans, renewable energy future resolution and climate action plan, the city’s goal is to have at least 50 percent of its fleet zero-emission by 2030, according to the resolution.

The city will begin purchasing electric-powered vehicles in the coming fiscal year, as the city begins the transition, city Fleet Manager Richard DeWitt said. The city fleet has about 1,000 vehicles in it, LaRocque said.

The resolution also encourages the use of additional zero-emission transportation options like buses, electric bikes and vehicle-sharing services. It also calls for the installation of electrical-vehicle chargers and charging stations throughout the city.

“As we know, climate change is real,” Sorg said. “In the next five years, there will be a lot more charging stations.”

At the meeting, the council also accepted $750,000 in state legislative capital outlay funds to pay for the construction and renovation of tax lanes and the extension of runway 12/30 at the Las Cruces International Airport. Another $720,000 in capital outlay funding will pay for road and drainage improvements on the East Mesa.