The Advanced Technology
Energy Act was killed over the weekend due to objections from tribal leaders, and New Mexico’s latest hydrogen bill was killed while the Oil and Gas Reform Act moved forward.
This week, a bill to amend New Mexico’s 88-year-old Oil and Gas Act won a straight party vote at its first committee hearing, while a bill to encourage hydrogen production from natural gas was dropped from the Legislature’s agenda.
After its sponsors learned that tribal leaders from across the state strongly opposed it, the most recent version of the Advanced Technology Energy Act, HB12, died quietly over the weekend without even receiving a committee hearing. The chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, Mark Mitchell, wrote a letter to four of the bill’s five sponsors expressing the group’s dismay. The council represents 19 pueblos in New Mexico and one in Texas. He stated that advanced technology energy projects “on water, groundwater, cultural resources, and sacred sites” were causing concern among tribal leaders. He then suggested that the bill be put on hold while tribal concerns are addressed by legislators. Mitchell suggested that legislators improve their ability to clearly communicate with tribal members and explain the risks prior to the next legislative session, despite calling the bill “well intentioned.”
The development of hydrogen from fossil fuels like natural gas, nuclear power, and carbon sequestration schemes promoted by HB12 have all been deeply unpopular with the environmental and frontline communities of New Mexico. Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D), who also attempted to shepherd hydrogen bills through the Legislature last year but were unsuccessful, was one of the bill’s original sponsors. At the beginning of this year’s session, the house speaker unexpectedly removed her from her position as influential chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee and replaced her with Rep. Nathan Small (D), another HB12 sponsor. During the most recent election, oil and gas groups contributed a lot to their campaigns.
In the most recent election, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham received more oil and gas money than any other state Democrat. She is also a fan of hydrogen fuel and started the idea for an interstate hydrogen hub that would connect Wyoming and New Mexico’s northwest natural gas fields.