February 23, 2017

Bill to label nuclear energy as renewable stalls

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By NRC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Alvin Ward Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant

A bill aimed at classifying nuclear power as a renewable energy source in New Mexico stalled Thursday afternoon in committee on a tie vote.

House Bill 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would have amended the state’s Renewable Energy Act, which requires energy companies provide a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources.

Brown told the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee she didn’t know of any definite plans to bring nuclear power plants to the state, but that she wanted to broaden the options for a “baseload power” to replace coal or gas. Currently, Brown argued, wind and solar energy can only serve as “intermittent” power.

“Unless we can get the wind to blow 24 hours a day and the sun to shine day and night, we’re still going to have those intermittent sources,” Brown said.

Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that New Mexico already has a supply of uranium and could be cost effective if a nuclear power plant were to open in the state.

“This would give us another avenue to use something that is already here,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos acknowledged uranium mining’s past in the state, but said mining practices have changed in the decades since uranium was mined in New Mexico.

Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, said she supports looking for new options for power, but is concerned about possibly abandoning energy currently identified as renewable.

“I think it is really dangerous because we lose that motivation to keep using more of solar and geothermal [energy],” Ferrary said, later mentioning wind energy.

Committee Chair Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said he was concerned that  the bill might affect the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires a certain amount of energy come renewable resources and came up frequently during the meeting.

Brown argued that many consumers care less about renewable energy and more about cost and availability.

“All they care about is when they need light in their house it’s there when they need it,” Brown said. “They wouldn’t get much out of the discussion today.”

The party line, tie vote essentially ensured the bill will not move forward.

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