A controversial bill that would help make New Mexico a center of hydrogen production as an energy source is on its way to the House floor for consideration. Members of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee voted 7-3 to approve House Bill 228, which would create a framework for a hydrogen industry and allow businesses and organizations to apply for public and private money to develop hydrogen production projects. “We’re trying to take advantage of a new industry, try to grow economics-based jobs,” said Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, who co-sponsored the bill. “We’ve got a perfect location.” She cited the recently abandoned Escalante Power Plant in Prewitt, which would likely become the first hydrogen facility in the state if the bill becomes law.
ByDaniel J. Chacón and Robert Nott, Santa Fe New Mexican |
One day after a controversial bill to make New Mexico a hub of hydrogen activity died in the Legislature, another — deemed a “baby hydrogen bill” by its sponsor — sprung to life. But the new legislation, House Bill 228, sponsored by Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, includes significant changes from two previous bills. For one, it does away with offering tax credits to public and private entities that team up to create clean hydrogen projects — a point of contention to critics who said those credits will benefit the oil and gas industry.
Instead, interested parties wanting to develop the hydrogen industry in the state will apply for public/private partnership money to be vetted and approved by a hydrogen hub development board and approved by the New Mexico Finance Authority.
The House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing such partnerships Tuesday. That bill, which Lundstrom co-sponsored, now goes to the Senate for consideration.
HB 228 is intended to gradually reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the production of clean, or “blue”, hydrogen over time. The bill calls for the level of emissions to start with two kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen produced. By 2035, the bill requires that ratio to drop to one kilogram of carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen produced and, by 2045, zero carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen.
“I think it’s a major economic generator,” Lundstrom said Tuesday.
The Senate Conservation Committee tabled a bill that would amend the Renewable Energy Act to include hydrogen produced from methane gas as a renewable energy source on a 7-2 vote Tuesday. This comes as the state looks for ways to transition away from electricity produced by fossil fuels. On one hand, Senate Bill 194 proponents, including some utilities, say hydrogen is needed as a bridge fuel to provide baseload power as battery storage technology is developed. On the other hand, opponents say that it will lead to continued methane emissions from natural gas production that will harm the climate and that the focus should be on developing energy sources like wind and solar plus batteries. Following the vote to table the bill, the sponsor, Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, warned of possible rolling blackouts.
State Rep. Patty Lundstrom’s effort to jump-start what Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other proponents call a clean hydrogen economy might be blocked again — this time by House Speaker Brian Egolf. Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, announced Monday he was putting Lundstrom’s second bill calling for a Hydrogen Hub Act on the “Speaker’s Table” — where it can remain on hold until the session ends or can be put back into play by the speaker. Egolf wrote in a text message House Bill 227 “will not be heard” before the end of the session. He did not explain why he made the move. Environmental activists who oppose the governor’s plan to make New Mexico a hub of so-called blue hydrogen production, arguing it will increase emissions amid a global climate crisis, cheered Egolf’s action.
Conservation groups are unhappy with the revival of a controversial bill to make New Mexico a hub of “blue hydrogen” production. State Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, who introduced the initial hydrogen hub legislation, House Bill 4, has reintroduced the plan through a substitute measure, House Bill 227. Like HB 4, it would offer tax incentives for public agencies and private businesses to develop the infrastructure needed to separate hydrogen from natural gas for use as an energy source. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, which Lundstrom chairs, perhaps as soon as Monday.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, said in reviewing the new bill, it is very similar to HB 4. “Effectively they are just rearranging the deck chairs in the bill,” he said.
The Hydrogen Hub Development Act was tabled on Thursday by a 6-4 vote during its first committee hearing after about six hours of discussion. The bill, which is backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, would create tax incentives for hydrogen projects in New Mexico as well as laying the groundwork for state-authorized hydrogen hubs. About three quarters of the hundreds of members of the public who spoke at the committee meeting opposed the bill. Opponents called it a hand out to the oil and gas industry and described the bill as “greenwashing” and a “false solution.” They said the state should focus on renewable energy development and expansion. Many of them were concerned about the emissions related to hydrogen produced from fossil fuels as well as the use of water to produce hydrogen through electrolysis.