House panel OKs bill opposing nuclear waste storage plan

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican  bill that would stymie, if not stop, efforts to build a radioactive waste disposal storage site in the southeastern  part of the state is getting closer to the legislative finish line. The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 6-3 Saturday to approve Senate Bill 53, which […]

House panel OKs bill opposing nuclear waste storage plan

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

 bill that would stymie, if not stop, efforts to build a radioactive waste disposal storage site in the southeastern  part of the state is getting closer to the legislative finish line.

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted 6-3 Saturday to approve Senate Bill 53, which would prohibit the storage and disposal of radioactive materials or waste in New Mexico unless the state has agreed to the creation of the disposal facility and unless the federal government has already created a permanent nuclear waste repository.

The Senate has already passed the bill, which now goes to the House Judiciary Committee. If it clears that committee, it will go the floor of the House of Representatives for a final vote.

The effort, sponsored by four Democratic lawmakers, is aimed at slowing the efforts of Holtec International from building a proposed storage site between Hobbs and Carlsbad that would hold highly radioactive uranium from reactor sites around the country.

“I don’t want to see New Mexico become the nation’s dumping ground [for radioactive waste],” Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo,  one of the bill’s cosponsors, told committee members.

About 25 people testified in support of the bill while about a half-dozen spoke against it, including a lobbyist for Holtec who said the company has already signed memorandums of agreement with community associations and contractors in New Mexico to build a workforce training facility in the state. 

It’s unclear at this point what impact the bill, if it becomes law, would have on Holtec’s plans. Last year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it plans to grant Holtec a license to build and operate the facility. 

McQueen and cosponsor Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, told the committee the permit has not yet been issued and there is time to send a statement New Mexico does not want the facility. 

Holtec has said the facility would be temporary until a permanent repository could be built, but Rep. Janelle Anyanonu, D-Albuquerque, fears that wouldn’t be the case.

“Once it opens it’s going to be permanent no matter what the permit process,” Anyanou said.

Anyanonu joined both Democrats and Republicans on the committee in expressing concerns that efforts to stop Holtec could lead to a lawsuit. McQueen said he expects Holtec to challenge the bill if it becomes law.

The debate once again shed light on the sometimes controversial crossroads between economic development and community safety when it comes to the issue of radioactive waste sites in New Mexico. The state’s long history with nuclear and radioactive energy also played a role in Saturday’s debate, with some opponents of the Holtec project calling up memories of the first atomic bomb detonation near the Trinity Site in 1945. One report says as many as 1,000 New Mexicans living in communities near the blast may have developed cancer from the radioactive fallout. 

One man who spoke in favor of SB 53, Paul Pino of Carrizozo, said his mother and brother died of radiogenic cancer as a result of the atomic test. Noting workers have been contaminated at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, he said, “I hope they don’t die like my mom and brother did.”

Covnersely, some testified they support the Holtec project because of its potential to create jobs and inject new financial life into Southeastern New Mexico. 

Jason Shirley from the Carlsbad Department of Development said the business community “at large are all in strong support of the project and against this bill moving forward. We think it will be a very good thing for the community.”

Several lawmakers brought up the recent toxic train wreck near East Palestine, Ohio, as evidence hazardous waste could contaminate communities if a similar incident  happened in New Mexico. Holtec has said it will transport all the waste by train.

David Gallegos, who said he is a locomotive engineer, told the committee members that while Holtec could do everything right to protect people and the environment from any nuclear leak, “we cannot depend on the condition of the railroad.” Earlier this month Newsweek reported more than a dozen train derailments to date in 2023. 

“Derailments across the country have stopped things … stopped commerce in this country,” Gallegos said.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List, a nonprofit that supports women candidates and reproductive rights, endorsed seven incumbents facing general election opponents in New Mexico legislative elections. All…
Equality New Mexico endorses 15 legislative candidates

Equality New Mexico endorses 15 legislative candidates

A New Mexico-based LGBTQ rights organization endorsed 15 candidates for state House and Senate seats for the 2024 elections.  Marshall Martinez, executive director of…
Lujan Grisham pocket vetoes two bills

Lujan Grisham pocket vetoes two bills

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pocket vetoed two bills the legislature passed this legislative session: one changing the Cybersecurity Act and the other concerning law…
BLM increases what companies must pay to extract oil and gas 

BLM increases what companies must pay to extract oil and gas 

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a new rule Friday governing onshore oil and gas production that advocacy groups say will help protect…
Court hears arguments in oil and gas pollution case

Court hears arguments in oil and gas pollution case

A district court judge heard arguments Friday about whether to dismiss a lawsuit that could have major implications for the oil and gas industry…
Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a final renewable energy rule Thursday that is expected to pave the way for increased wind, solar…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the future of access to the abortion medication, mifepristone, another lawsuit against the FDA that would expand access…
Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Sen. Martin Heinrih and other Senate colleagues introduced abortion rights legislation into the U.S. Senate on Thursday. The Abortion Care Capacity Enhancement and Support…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the future of access to the abortion medication, mifepristone, another lawsuit against the FDA that would expand access…
Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Sen. Martin Heinrih and other Senate colleagues introduced abortion rights legislation into the U.S. Senate on Thursday. The Abortion Care Capacity Enhancement and Support…
Politics Newsletter: Early and absentee voting

Politics Newsletter: Early and absentee voting

Good morning fellow political junkies! Early and absentee voting for the June 4 New Mexico primary begins in about a month. The nonprofit election…
San Juan County, Navajo Nation settle redistricting case

San Juan County, Navajo Nation settle redistricting case

The Navajo Nation and San Juan County reached an agreement Monday about commission districts after the tribe alleged that its members were not adequately…
MIT ranks NM elections most well-run in the U.S.

MIT ranks NM elections most well-run in the U.S.

New Mexico’s 2022 election was ranked most well-run in the country by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab’s Elections Performance Index.…
BLM increases what companies must pay to extract oil and gas 

BLM increases what companies must pay to extract oil and gas 

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a new rule Friday governing onshore oil and gas production that advocacy groups say will help protect…
What the low unemployment rates for months means for NM’s economy

What the low unemployment rates for months means for NM’s economy

Post-pandemic, New Mexico has had an extended run of low unemployment rates. New Mexico’s unemployment rate has remained stable at 4.0 percent since October…
Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a final renewable energy rule Thursday that is expected to pave the way for increased wind, solar…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report