Bill to address concerns about contamination at San Juan mine, generating station advances

A bill that would increase state oversight of the remediation of the San Juan Generating Station and the San Juan Mine passed the Senate Finance Committee on a 8-0 vote. HB 142 now heads to the Senate floor. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Anthony Allison, D-Fruitland, said the bill is important to protect people, especially residents of Navajo Nation, from potential water contamination in the future. He highlighted the legacy of pollution that the Nation continues to face from industries that have left the communities including uranium mining operations. The power plant and coal mine closed last year and remediation efforts are underway at the mine. The San Juan County Commission earlier this week approved a plan to demolish the power plant and remediate the site.

San Juan Generating Station, mine remediation bill heads to House floor

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.

Bill to fund tax-poor rural school districts clears first committee

As New Mexico lawmakers look for a way to provide extra funding for public school students in some of the most financially challenged areas of the state, a bill that eventually would provide $60 million a year for some of those districts to share cleared its first hurdle Wednesday. House Bill 4, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup and Anthony Allison of Fruitland, would appropriate $18.9 million in fiscal year 2021 to start the new fund. Over the course of three years, the fund would grow to about $60 million in both operational funding and capital outay, Egolf said, adding 23 of New Mexico’s 89 school districts would be eligible for a share. The new funding is “a dire, dire need for us,” said Jvanna Hanks, assistant superintendent of Gallup-McKinley County Schools, a district that would qualify.