Conservation groups are unhappy with the relaunch of a controversial bill to make New Mexico a hub for “blue hydrogen” production.
State Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, who introduced the original hydrogen center legislation, House Bill 4, reintroduced the plan through a replacement measure, House Bill 227. Like HB 4 , it would offer tax incentives to public agencies and private companies. develop the infrastructure needed to separate hydrogen from natural gas for use as an energy source.
The bill is expected to be heard by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, chaired by Lundstrom, possibly as early as Monday.
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, said after reviewing the new bill that it is very similar to HB 4.
“They’re actually just rearranging the lounge chairs in the bill,” he said. “It still includes tax credits and tax deductions, it sets up public-private partnerships. This is truly a pro-hydrogen bill.
Tom Solomon, a retired electrical engineer and co-coordinator of 350 New Mexico, a climate advocacy group, said that despite some minor “tweaks” in the new bill, including a reduction in carbon emissions, it remains basically the same as HB 4.
The bill, he said, still grants “tax benefits to the same industry [oil and gas] who doesn’t need more so they can keep increasing the amount of global warming emissions.
But Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces and one of HB 4’s co-sponsors, said Saturday that the new legislation meets or exceeds federal guidelines on capturing methane and reducing emissions.
The initial bill authorized the emission of 4 kilograms of carbon dioxide for 1 kilogram of hydrogen for three years. The new bill reduces this to 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide for 1 kilogram of hydrogen.
“In every place [in the bill] we have tightened and put in place state-of-the-art national standards … for low decarbonization through hydrogen,” Small said Saturday.
Small said a new clean hydrogen industry will create jobs, especially in areas of the state hardest hit by coal plant shutdowns. The effort was a pet project of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who pushed hard for the idea.
As the governor touts what could become a booming new industry, environmental groups and some progressive Democrats say it will lead to more greenhouse gas emissions amid a global climate crisis – and would strongly benefit the oil and gas industry at a time when the state should be reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.
The original hydrogen hub bill has become one of the most contentious issues in the first half of this year’s 30-day legislative session.
HB 4 was stopped in the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee by a 6-4 vote after approximately six hours of testimony and debate. Two Democrats joined four Republicans from oil and gas-rich districts in blocking the measure.
At the time, Lundstrom said she had no plans to introduce a similar measure or push to revive the filed bill.
But at a press conference Thursday on the proposed state budget for fiscal year 2023, Lundstrum said the spending plan includes $125 million for a hydrogen fund administered by New Mexico Finance. Authority.
“Obviously this fund is dependent on whether a bill passes, House Bill 4 or something similar,” she said, hinting that a new plan was in the works.
“It’s not over until it’s over,” she said. “You know that from me. It’s not over until it’s over when it comes to something like the hydrogen bill so you can expect some good things in the very near future when it comes to hydrogen .
It is unclear whether the new bill will go through the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. If he bypasses that committee and only goes to Lundstrom’s committee before hitting the floor of the House of Representatives, “it smells pretty bad,” Solomon said.
Lujan Grisham hopes to move quickly to develop the framework for the new hydrogen industry so that New Mexico can leverage some of the $8 billion for the industry included in the massive federal infrastructure bill approved by Congress and signed into law last year by President Joe Biden.
This act calls for four initial “hydrogen hub” states in the country and provides an additional $1 billion in aid for hydrogen technology research and development.
During the House Energy Committee debate, Lundstrom said federal infrastructure law money could help make New Mexico the national leader in hydrogen production. She also said the state would go ahead with the initiative even if it did not receive the federal funds.
Small said New Mexico could get a head start on demand for those funds if it sets up a hydrogen hub. He noted that other states, including Texas and New Jersey, are working on similar proposals to create hydrogen centers.
The process of separating hydrogen from natural gas includes capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground. The remaining hydrogen has a wide range of uses, from powering power plants to fueling transportation to heating homes.
Besides the differences in emission and methane gas standards, it was not immediately clear whether HB 227, introduced by what is known as a “dummy bill”, is a revised version of HB 4 or largely the same bill.
Both bills are 68 pages long.
Sham bills are introduced during the first half of a legislative session, but left blank so lawmakers can later tailor them to a particular purpose.
Members of the House introduced about 45 sham bills this session. The senators filed about 35.
Staff reporter Daniel J. Chacón contributed to this report.