A bill focused on the cleanup of the San Juan Generating Station and the San Juan Mine passed the House Appropriation and Finance Committee on Wednesday without any opposition.
HB 142, which is sponsored by Rep. Anthony Allison, D-Fruitland, would require the New Mexico Environment Department and the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to contract for a study of the current conditions at the power plant and mine. The two agencies would use that study to develop a restoration and remediation plan for the facilities.
“The purpose of this bill is prevention,” Allison said.
Allison spoke of the legacy pollution impacting Navajo Nation, including abandoned uranium mines. The majority of people who would be impacted by potential contamination from the mine and power plant are residents of Navajo Nation.
The fear is that if proper remediation and restoration does not occur contaminants could travel through groundwater or down the Shumway Arroyo to the San Juan River and be carried downstream to communities like Hogback and Shiprock.
Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said having a third party come in to look at current conditions and help develop a plan is a fair proposal. He said it will slow down the remediation process, but he doesn’t think there’s any rush.
“The power plant’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Montoya said that people, especially those on Navajo Nation, “from Waterflow to Hogback, Shiprock to Arizona,” deserve to have a third-party come in and look at the power plant and mine so that they can feel comfortable that no contamination will be coming from those facilities in the future.
The committee amended the bill to remove the appropriations because another bill the committee has already passed includes the funding for the project.
The bill previously passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on a 5-3 vote.
HB 142 now heads to the House floor.