Just hours after the Legislature passed a bill limiting the storage of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law. The rest of this story continues as originally written below. Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, highlighted the various nuclear projects that New Mexico has had over the decades as he urged his colleagues to pass a bill to prohibit the storage of high level nuclear waste without state consent and without a national permanent repository in place. The House voted 35-28 to pass SB 53 on Friday, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. This bill comes as a company, Holtec International, is seeking to build a temporary storage location for nuclear waste from power plants throughout the country.
A bill to assist with regional water planning efforts passed the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon on a 62-0 vote. SB 337 authorizes the Interstate Stream Commission to issue loans and grants for regional water planning and to develop regulations governing regional water planning entities. These entities would be required to submit a water security plan with prioritized projects. The House amended the bill on the floor to clarify that the water security plans must take into account prior appropriation and that condemnation of water rights will not be allowed. The amendment also changes language that instructed the regional water planning entities to pursue outcomes that “seek to equitably balance water uses.”
A bill that would expand the eligibility requirements for displaced workers to access Energy Transition Act funding passed the House of Representatives unanimously on Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk. The Energy Transition Act created three funds, including a displaced workers fund. This fund is intended to assist workers who lost their jobs as a result of the closure of the San Juan Generating Station and the San Juan Mine in northwest New Mexico. The 2019 law set a one-year time frame for people to seek assistance from the displaced workers fund. However, layoffs began in 2020 and the funding was not available until last summer.
A bill that would create a new Center for Excellence in geothermal development at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and would create two new funds to support the development of geothermal resources passed the Senate on a 37-0 vote on Thursday night. HB 365 is the same as SB 8, which previously passed the Senate but has not passed the House of Representatives. Funding for the initiatives was included in the budget bill, HB 2. An amendment to HB 365 was made on the Senate floor. Because of the amendment, the bill now heads to the House for concurrence.
With just days left of the Legislative session, advocacy groups looked back at the dismal record of passing climate change-related bills this year. “The Legislature has failed on climate action this year,” Ben Shelton with Conservation Voters of New Mexico said.
The legislative session ends at noon on Saturday. Conservation Voters of New Mexico, New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light, Naeva and Moms Clean Air Task Force/EcoMadres joined together in a press conference on Thursday to discuss the lack of climate action prior to going to the Roundhouse to deliver letters to the lawmakers urging them to pass some of the climate bills. “This legislative session has been marked by dozens of bills, millions and millions and millions of dollars appropriated to address the symptoms of climate change,” Shelton said during the press conference. Those include appropriations to help communities recover from the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire and efforts to address water scarcity and infrastructure.
A bill that would change how commissioners are appointed to the New Mexico Game Commission passed the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 34-2. HB 184 would change the commission from seven members appointed by the governor to four members appointed by the Legislative Council and three appointed by the governor. The bill was amended in two Senate committees, which means that it must return to the House of Representatives for concurrence. HB 184 is intended to decrease the political nature of the game commission and to create more stability. Under the bill, the commissioners would serve six year terms.
The bill comes as the New Mexico Game Commission has not had seven members in years and, in February, reached the point where there were not enough members to form a quorum to meet.
A bill that would allow funding from the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund to be used for disaster response passed the House of Representatives on a 64-3 vote on Wednesday. SB 176 now heads to the governor’s desk.
Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, attempted to amend the bill to include a three-year sunset date. But, Rep. Susan Herrea, D-Embudo, said it is a small fund of $2.5 million annually that has to be used by more than 700 acequias. Herrera presented the bill to the House of Representatives. Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, argued that the use of the fund for disaster response should be revisited in three years to ensure that it does not deplete the fund.
A bill that would amend the state Forest Conservation Act heads to the governor’s desk after passing the Senate on a 36-0 vote on Wednesday. Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, said the current Forest Conservation Act contains language that conflicts with state and federal policies. HB 195 would update that statute. He said the changes will allow the State Forestry Division to work to improve the health of the forests and to restore the watersheds and to do post-fire recovery work. “More than 35 years have passed since the last updates to the statute.
A bill that would transfer the transportation regulatory duties from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to the New Mexico Department of Transportation is headed to the governor’s desk. SB 160 passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday and the Senate concurred with the amendments made to the legislation later the same day. Those amendments were made in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee. Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, explained the amendment to the Senate on Wednesday evening. The amendment changes the date of the change to July 1, 2024 from Jan.
A bill that would increase state oversight of the cleanup and remediation of the San Juan Generating Station and the San Juan Mine passed the Senate on a 31-0 vote on Tuesday and now heads to the governor’s desk. Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, described HB 142 as a prevention measure that would allow the state’s Energy, Mineral and Natural Resources Department and the New Mexico Environment Department to hire consultants who would conduct an independent comprehensive assessment of the site and report the findings to the legislature. “This will not prescribe what will be done after the independent comprehensive study is performed, but it does require oversight and enforcement to be determined based on the findings of the independent assessment,” Pinto said while presenting the bill to the Senate. She spoke about a sediment pond at the power plant and concerns in the community that there could be an incident leading to a breach of the pond. The Senate passed the bill with no debate.