89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Controversial hydrogen development bill stalls in committee

Fracking on public lands in the American Southwest.
WildEarth Guardians via Flickr
Fracking on public lands in the American Southwest.

A controversial hydrogen development bill at the forefront of the governor’s legislative agenda stalled in its first committee hearing Thursday.

After 6 hours of debate the bill was tabled amid concerns it was rushed and conceptually flawed.

The Hydrogen Development Act seeks to address climate change by establishing a hydrogen hub in New Mexico to use this resource for power generation.

Bill sponsors claim this is a great way to off-set the effects of climate change and get New Mexico one-step closer to zero-carbon emissions.

But hydrogen is usually created by burning natural gas, which is one of the main points of opposition to the bill by environmentalists. A community member from Prewitt, New Mexico, where there are plans for a huge hydrogen facility, spoke against the bill.

“How many times do First Nations Indigenous people have to be forced to give up their health and safety for the economy of New Mexico and the United States?”

According to a report funded by Cornell University, the carbon footprint of creating this type of hydrogen is 20% greater than just burning fossil fuels directly for energy––and this is just the tip of the iceberg for skeptics.

Many critics also have issues with how carbon, which contributes to climate change, will be sequestered after it’s created from the process. Usually, this is done by storing carbon underground to limit the amount released into the atmosphere. However, this process remains unproven.

The bill would change the definition of renewable energy to include hydrogen, create opportunities for public-private partnerships on developing regional hydrogen hubs and give certain tax incentives and subsidies.

Thebill’s fiscal impact reportpoints out the tax incentives in the bill have an unknown cost and that the bill was simply rushed, because it may be counter to the Legislative Finance Committee’s tax principles.

The bill was tabled on a 6-to-4 vote, but still has a chance of being revived at a later date.

Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.