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Senate tables law that would add hydrogen to New Mexico’s list of renewable energy sources

WildEarth Guardians via Flickr

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has made it clear that paving a path to a hydrogen hub in New Mexico is a priority for this legislative session.

But, with just under 10 days left, it’s looking grim for the governor’s wishes as yet another attempt by lawmakers to define hydrogen as a renewable energy has fallen short.

Just over 170 people closely listened to lawmakers discuss Senate Bill 194 on Tuesday, which, if passed, would change New Mexico’s current laws to label electricity generated from hydrogen facilities as clean.

Opponent Sterling Grogan, who worked for years in ecological restoration in New Mexico, says that simply changing the definition does not address the significant emissions produced from hydrogen production.

“Hydrogen from fracked gas can never be defined as renewable,” Grogan said. “Gas is finite, not renewable, and investments in hydrogen are wasteful and dirty.”

Opponents are concerned creating hydrogen relies on natural gas, which could prompt even more drilling in New Mexico. The process would also create carbon dioxide. Proponents promise this would be sequestered, but large-scale carbon capture technology remains unproven.

Backers of the bill included lobbyists from Xcel Energy and families affected by layoffs in the power industry. Chelci Metzger is married to a displaced worker.

"And the displacement of workers has impacted my family personally as well as many others,” Metzger said. “There's a lot of people who are moving out of our state.”

The bill would also add other definitions like “responsibly sourced gas” to law, but the fiscal impact reportfound the bill has a hard time defining what that means.

It was quickly tabled on a 7-2 vote before any debate.

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