Q and A with New Mexico's incoming energy secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst

By Cody Hooks
chooks@taosnews.com
Posted 1/18/19

Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced her choice to lead the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department: Sarah Cottrell Propst.Cottrell Propst served as the deputy cabinet secretary of …

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Q and A with New Mexico's incoming energy secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst

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Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced her choice to lead the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department: Sarah Cottrell Propst.

Cottrell Propst served as the deputy cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Energy Department from 2006-10. She is the executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, "a nonprofit trade association that represents the nation's leading companies in the renewable energy industry," according to the website.

Her appointment will have to be confirmed now that the New Mexico Legislature is in session at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Here is a quick Q and A with Cottrell Propst ahead of the 2019 Regular Legislative Session.

What was your involvement with the Richardson administration?

After earning a master's of public affairs from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, I was hired as Governor Richardson's energy and environmental policy advisor in 2006. During that time I helped develop and implement state and regional policy initiatives, served as the governor's staff council representative to the Western Governors' Association, negotiated energy and environmental legislative proposals, wrote speeches and talking points, among many other projects.

In 2010, I served as the deputy secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department and chaired the Water Quality Control Commission.

How has your time at the Interwest Energy Alliance prepared you for your new role in the EMNRD?

Interwest is a nonprofit coalition of wind, solar and storage companies working together with leading conservation organizations to expand deployment of a reliable, cost-effective and diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources. Working as the executive director, I managed a geographically diverse team and membership base while adhering to a set of clear strategic priorities. These management, budget and prioritization skills will serve me well at EMNRD, as well as the understanding I developed of how to bring together industry and other stakeholders to achieve consensus.

What's your first priority for the EMNRD once you are confirmed?

I plan to work with the EMNRD team to secure a budget that enables us to do our jobs efficiently and effectively -- from oil and gas permitting and inspections to running state parks and everything in between -- and begin acting on Governor-Elect Lujan Grisham's clean-energy goals heading into the legislative session, like the renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency bills.

How do you see the role of oil and gas extraction in New Mexico in the face of climate change?

New Mexico is an energy state, and oil and gas are an important part of our economy. That's why the governor-elect wants to work with the industry on initiatives like a strong methane rule. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, so minimizing leaks and flares is critical for New Mexico to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas pollution while continuing to grow our economy.

How do you plan to tackle methane emissions, especially in the Four Corners area of New Mexico?

We will bring the stakeholders together in an inclusive and quick-moving process to develop a plan to tackle methane emissions that works for New Mexico.

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