After months of tips, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham unveiled her Hydrogen Hub Development ActFor consideration by the New Mexico Legislature on Monday. Although it is a cornerstone of a clean energy economy, and a key piece to environmental legislation, her office claims it is not supported by environmental groups. The bill is a strange anomaly considering the environmental work she’s done in the past three years.
The 39-page policy report that was attached to the bill, which points directly at the natural gas industry, might explain the anomaly.
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The report is titled “Defining and Envisioning Clean Hydrogen Hubs for New Mexico” These are the outlinesThe basics of the Hydrogen hub and why New Mexico is the ideal location. It features logos from the New Mexico Economic Development Department, Environment Department and Indian Affairs Department. However it also has this disclaimer.
This report has not been approved by the EDD. Therefore, its contents and recommendations don’t necessarily reflect the views and policies of the EDD and other agencies in New Mexico’s Executive Branch.
The two nongovernmental organisations mentioned on the cover are Zen Energy SolutionsHydrogen industry consulting firm, based in Canada, is. New Mexico Energy Prosperity, a company that was founded in September 2021 by Jason Sandel (a well-known acquaintance of the governor) and Aztec Well Service’s executive VP, an oil and gas well servicing firm near Farmington.
New Mexico Energy Prosperity shares the Aztec Well Service and New Mexico Energy Prosperity Same business addressThe report’s contributors list reads like a list of hydrogen and fossil fuel developers and promoters in the San Juan Basin.
Take a look at these [bill], what it’s independent of is the state government. It is entirely dependent on the oil and gas industry.
~ Tom Singer, senior policy adviser, Western Environmental Law Center
Nora Meyers Sackett was the press secretary for Gov. Lujan Grisham said that the report was meant to give legislators an honest assessment on potential investment and economic advantages of a clean-hybrid economy. State agencies were not involved in the process.
Environmental groups, already skeptical about the governor’s plans, were alarmist by the report’s provenance.
Take a look at these [bill], what it’s independent of is the state government, says Tom Singer, senior policy adviser at the Western Environmental Law Center. It is a product of the oil-and-gas industry.
The Hydrogen Hub development Act, which Governor Sarah Palin has declared her signature piece, is a mixture of draft bills from the governor’s office as well as another hydrogen bill, proposed by Rep. Patty Lundstrom. She is a Democrat from the second largest area of fossil fuel-producing states.
Lundstrom’s proposal emphasized hydrogen made from fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, and methane from coal bed. It also contained sections for hydrogen powered electric utilities such as the retrofit of Escalante’s power station in her locality. The Hydrogen Hub Development Act still contains the outline of these ideas.
The governor’s tenure has been focused on combating climate change. Her climate goals are ambitious, including a 50% reduction to greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, compared to 2005 levels. Under her leadership, state agencies have tightened rules governing oil and gas well leaks. She signed the 2019 Energy Transition ActThis requires utilities to transition to zero carbon energy by 2050. Meyers Sackett stated, “To meet our climate goals, it is necessary to diversify away fossil fuels.
The Western Environmental Law Center and San Juan Citizens Alliance, as well as the Sierra Club, have all stated that they won’t support a hydrogen bill that is based on fossil fuel production.
Shannon Perez is the senior manager of state legislative & regulatory affairs at EarthWorks. She calls it trying diversify away form fossil fuels and using them to create hydrocarbon cognitive dissonance. She added, “It is to believe in magic.”
Mike Eisenfeld from the San Juan Citizens Alliance was even blunter: The bill still sucks.
Camilla Feibelman from the Rio Grande Chapter of Sierra Club said it was an incentive bill for fossil fuel-fueled hydrogen.
The Western Environmental Law Center and San Juan Citizens Alliance, NM350.org and the Sierra Club, among others, have all stated that they won’t support a hydrogen bill based upon fossil fuel production.
The governors office didnt drum up early support from other powerful politicians in the governor’s own party, either. Democratic Sen. George Muoz is the head of Senate Finance Committee and vice chairman of the overarching Legislative Finance Committee. He expressed frustration at not being consulted in committee hearings earlier this year.
The bill arrived in legislators’ hands a week into their session. It was first published by the New Mexico Environment Department WebsiteBefore you visit the Legislatures website.
The bill as it stands now has a sliding-scale of tax credits and deductions that will be available for hydrogen facilities built in the next 9 to 13 years. It is based upon varying levels carbon intensity and emissions.
And during Zoom online forumLast weekend, Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf spoke with constituents. Peter Wirth, Senate Majority Leader, also stated that they hadn’t seen the bill before. Egolf stated that any hydrogen legislation that passes must be net zero emission at best and that any bill failing to meet that goal will be a complete nonstarter.
He also stated that it might be better to leave the bill in place for a future session, if any.
As it stands, the bill has a sliding scale of tax credits or deductions for hydrogen facilities that are built within the next nine to thirteen years. This is based on varying levels of carbon intensity and emission.
One of the most contentious issues in the bill will be clean and qualified hydrogen. The definitions range from less then 2 kg CO2 per kilo of hydrogen produced to less 4 kg CO2 per kilo of hydrogen.
This provision would allow hydrogen to be produced from natural gas, coal, or coalbed methane provided that production emissions of other pollutants are stopped and fully functional carbon sequestration and capture plans are implemented.
The state has a problem monitoring and stopping upstream emissions, as well as massive-scale carbon sequestration. A very turbulent history. Singer from the Western Environmental Law Centers says it’s been an inglorious failure across the board.
Singer says that the only way to create the near-zero or zero emissions hydrogen in the bill is by using perfectly produced natural gas, perfect carbon sequestration programs, perfect technology, and a functioning permitting system. All of these assumptions are not supported.
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