Back Door Hydrogen, the Kind Where the Leg. Says NO and the Guv Says YES

Today, we offer updates and actions on Local Choice Energy and the Green Amendment, and then we discuss HB 174 Underground Injection Fund, a new bill that reveals much about what the Governor and her administration can do without legislative authorization. Shocking!

Before we dive into carbon sequestration and more evidence of a Governor who will push her agenda regardless of the level of community and legislative opposition, we offer two actions, both of which can be done from your couch. Let’s do this!

Local Choice Energy: A Path to Lower Rates & 100% Renewables – ACTION NEEDED TODAY!

Retake has been working with a coalition of clean energy advocates to develop and pass the Local Choice Energy Act (SB 165), and we need your help to get it passed! NM has 300 days of sun, yet our monopoly Investor Owned Utilities offer nothing but resistance to expanding use of renewables, resulting in PNM having but 10% solar in its portfolio in 2021, Excel Energy with 2% Solar and El Paso Electric just 5% renewables of any kind. Plus, at every turn these utilities use stall tactics and the courts to block Community Solar and any and all efforts to expand renewables because they profit more from continued reliance on the most expensive energy sources — gas, oil and nuclear — than they could from the cheaper, cleaner renewables. We can escape their environmental and economic tyranny.

The Local Choice Energy Act will empower our communities to generate affordable, renewable electricity while creating local jobs, lowering utility bills, investing in local economies, and providing more revenue for local governments for community needs. The electricity will be transmitted in partnership with the existing utility companies over their grid for the same fees that they charge their customers.

Local Choice Energy (frequently called Community Choice Aggregation or CCA) is the law of the land in 10 states, and millions of Americans in more than 1,300 communities are served by these community-owned providers. All of the electricity providers in the United States that have gone 100% renewable are community-owned, and many of them are local choice energy providers. Local Choice Energy is exciting because it’s a significant way to have an impact in the face of climate change, and it also offers so many other important and tangible benefits to our communities and residents.

Instead of sending profits to Wall Street, Local Choice Energy invests in the resiliency of our communities, providing more reliable, cheaper electricity, while creating local jobs and improving local economies. We will face ferocious industry opposition. Our coalition has already secured resolutions from rural counties and cities, it has received a unanimous endorsement from Bernalillo County. And now we are seeking endorsement from Santa Fe County. These endorsements are strong indicators of the viability of LCE as a state energy policy, as they demonstrate that if the legislature passes LCE, many NM jurisdictions, tribes and pueblos will utilize it and in the process help NM achieve its renewable goals. To be clear, this may be the only way we meet those goals as the Investor Owned Utilities would rather profit than protect.

Act Now!

Please contact the Santa Fe County Commissioners in support of Local Choice Energy and make a plan to speak in support of it either online or in person (102 Grant Avenue, Santa Fe New Mexico, 87501) TODAY! Tuesday 1/31 at 2 PM. 

First, please sign up for public comment virtually or in person via this form before the meeting, and indicate that you want to comment on item 3. A. on the agenda:

Second, please write to the commissioners to tell them why you support LCE and that demonstrating that local jurisdictions want LCE is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence we have to convince legislators to approve this legislation. So their vote matters.

Santa Fe County Commissioners to contact:
Commission Chair Anna Hansen – – (505) 986-6263
Commissioner Hank Hughes – – (505) 986-6210
Commissioner Anna Hamilton – – (505) 986-6200
Commissioner Camilla Bustamante – – (505)-986-6333
Commissioner Justin Greene – –  (505)-986-2760

Third, if you possibly can, come to the hearing in person. We want the commissioners not only to hear from you but to visibly see you.

Action II: The Green Amendment

Here, we ask that you use this link to register for Thursday evening’s Zoom webinar on the Green Amendment. We’ve assembled a great panel with the founder of the Green Amendment, Maya van Rossum, attorneys from NY and PA who have been involved with leading implementation of the amendment in those states, and Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, the people’s Senator and one of the bill sponsors.

Why do we need this amendment? One example:

The oil and gas industry in NM emits 570,000 tons of methane a year, the equivalent climate impact of 12 coal-fired power plants. Methane pollution, a known carcinogen, has more than doubled in the Permian Basin since 2011. A recent Searchlight report, “No Eyes in the Sky,” verified unchecked methane releases throughout the Permian Basin with virtually no inspections being conducted or fines levied.

We could offer many more examples, like 1,500 produced water spills between 2016-2019 going uninspected, unchecked, unfined. We could go on, but you get it.

We’ve heard our Governor crow about how NM has the most rigorous methane regs in the nation. They should add an asterisk indicating that we do not enforce them if campaign donors are opposed to being regulated. The Green Amendment is designed to force state and local government to enforce the laws and regs they have passed to protect you and the planet. Find out more about how the Green Amendment has been used in PA and NY to hold industry accountable and protect its residents from environmental harm.

You’ll learn about what the Green Amendment can do to force our state to enforce its laws. Use this link to register for our Thursday evening, 6-7:30 pm Zoom webinar on the Green Amendment and together, let’s force our state to protect us.

All Hydrogen, All the Time; Now HB 174

That is the mantra of James Kinney and the NM Environment Dept of which he is Secretary. No wonder his dept hasn’t the resources to inspect and protect.

I lost track of how many iterations of hydrogen bills were rejected by the legislature last year, but clearly the message didn’t percolate to the 4th Floor, as the Governor and her administration have been, “all hydrogen, all the time,” using executive orders instead of legislative approval to launch the state into the hydrogen hub fiasco. Any wonder why MLG appointed a PRC Commissioner with no experience, another who has been in bed with PNM for over a decade? She wants her way. Period. Another reason why we need Local Choice Energy and the Green Amendment. But now we have HB 174 Underground Injection Fund.

The Fiscal Impact Report (FIR) from this bill reveals that despite multiple legislative defeats in 2022, this administration has been moving ahead with hydrogen development without regard for those defeats and the united, massive opposition from the environmental community.

Unbeknownst to most, the NM Environment Dept. has been devoting resources to building capacity to respond to federal hydrogen funding opportunities for Hydrogen production. Despite absolutely no evidence that carbon sequestration can work, NMED has been conducting research and supporting pilot sequestration projects throughout the state and now is seeking federal designation for having primacy enforcement authority over the regulation of injection wells used for sequestration of C02. The HB 174 Fiscal Impact Report states clearly that NM has been advancing pilot carbon sequestration projects, despite multiple legislative rejections of hydrogen production:

EMNRD has begun the process of applying for primacy enforcement authority. According to the agency’s analysis,
“The development of an underground injection control (UIC) Class VI program and the process of obtaining approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a significant undertaking. In addition, while federal grants have been obtained for the existing UIC program, these grants have not proved sufficient to handle the large increase in UIC applications in recent years. As a result, OCD has a backlog of applications, inspections and enforcement, and the EPA has raised questions about OCD’s ability to
administer the UIC programs it has already been delegated.”

EMNRD is focused on moving through the EPA process for obtaining Class VI primacy but is wary of the feedback it is already receiving from the federal government. Not only does New Mexico have to demonstrate its ability to meet the regulatory requirements under the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act, but it must also demonstrate the ability to continually support such a program in future years. According to EMNRD,

HB 174 Fiscal Impact Report. p.2 and 3

NM EMNRD and OCD will certainly not be able to point to its regulation track record as evidence of NM’s capacity to regulate much of anything — their inspection process is virtually non-existent for produced water leaks and methane releases. Retake has repeatedly blogged about the state’s failure to hire sufficient staffing to regulate what is already their responsibility to regulate, inspect and, as indicated, collect fines. Given utter lack of regulatory enforcement demonstrated in relation to the absence of penalties for water discharges and methane releases, perhaps it makes sense for NM EMNRD to be more focused on shoring up their regulation of toxic water spills and methane leaks, rather than launching on a quixotic venture demanding more rigorous enforcement. The odds are not in our favor that we will succeed in this new venture and failure not only will result in hundreds of millions of stranded assets, but could imperil our water supplies. The EPA has warned us that a spill of any sort or a malfunction in sequestration drilling could contaminate an entire aquifer. From an EPA report:

the consequences of COleakage on groundwater quality were evaluated to provide sound scientific information to regulators and the public. Injection of high-pressure CO2 could impact shallow aquifers through several processes: (1) COgas migrating from depth could reach an underground source of drinking water (USDW) and dissolve in the water, increasing the acidity of the groundwater, which could enhance the solubility of inorganic hazardous constituents. (2) In deep storage formations, the enhanced solvent properties of COare expected to lead to the leaching of organic compounds present in the reservoir rock matrix (e.g., aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene). Subsequent transport of the contaminated COfrom depth and intrusion into a USDW could result in contamination by these hazardous organic compounds. (3) Contaminants such as H2S, a byproduct of coal gasification, could be co-injected with CO2. H2S would preferentially partition into the formation brine, but H2S-bearing COcould also leak into USDWs and adversely affect water quality. H2S could furthermore interact with organic matter in the COreservoir

EPA:”Understanding Geochemical Impacts of Carbon Dioxide Leakage from Carbon Capture and Sequestration”

There is good reason reason why Retake was joined by so many other enviro organizations in opposing hydrogen production. The research done by Renewable Taos, New Energy Economy, and Retake make clear the carbon sequestration process that is central to hydrogen projects meeting their economic and environmental goals has never worked at anything like the scale needed for hydrogen production to be viable — an inconvenient truth outlined clearly in our research summary on Hydrogen Development. Yet despite this mountain of evidence calling into question the viability of hydrogen, the state’s Hydrogen “Fact Sheet” offers nothing but unsubstantiated assertions.

Note how the NMED’s “Fact Sheet” (below) is replete with unsubstantiated assertions and assumptions, with absolutely no research offered to validate those assumptions. Retake’s research summary includes 12 citations so that legislators and constituents can verify the data. I have given a copy of our research to both the Secretary of the Environment, James Kinney, and to the Secretary of Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources, Sara Cotrell- Propst with handwritten notes asking for their reaction. Thus far, no response. I wonder why. This administration does not appreciate being told of inconvenient truths, e.g. Avangrid, ETA, Hydrogen. Check out NMED’s fact sheet and compare it with the summary done by Retake linked in the previous paragraph.

Speaking Points

In writing to your legislator, to committee members (HAFC), or when offering public comment to oppose HB 174, please use the following points.

  • There is no market for hydrogen fueled trucking, one of the anticipated markets for NM hydrogen. With state, federal, and private investments, a robust network of EV charging stations is being developed to support trucking and private vehicles. Virtually no such investment has been made in hydrogen fueling stations. 
  • Tim Baxter, a senior researcher with the Australian Climate Council, reported that he was not aware of a single large carbon capture and storage project linked to fossil fuels in the world that had delivered on time, on budget, and captured the agreed amount of carbon.[3] This is very big deal. His assertion is validated by the U.S. experience. Of $2.66 billion spent by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) since 2010 to develop advanced fossil energy technologies, nearly half was dedicated to nine carbon capture and storage P(CCS) demonstration projects. Only three major projects remained active at the end of FY17 and cost the DOE a combined $615 million.[1] Check them out:
    • Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, USA: Received $190 million in public funding and cost over $1 billion. The CCS technology at Petra Nova required so much energy that NRG built a separate gas plant—the emissions of which were not offset by the Petra Nova technology—just to power the scrubber. NRG, the plant’s major investor, said CCS couldn’t compete because of its reliance on volatile O&G markets. The government lost all its investment, as did other investors.
    • Mississippi Power’s Kemper Project, USA: The project was supposed to cost $2.4 billion but the cost ballooned by 212.5 percent to $7.5 billion, $270 million of which came from the DOE, without ever actually coming online. Mississippi Power’s ratepayers and taxpayers were stuck with the bill.[2]
    • Many other CCS projects were abandoned for financial reasons, despite large amounts of public funding, among them the Antelope Valley Project, USA, ($400 million in public funding), the Sweeny Gasification Project, USA, ($3 million in public funding) and numerous international projects.

We acknowledge that we missed HB 174 as a bill that we needed to oppose rigorously, and so no major advocacy was mounted when it was heard and narrowly passed in House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources. Its next stop is the very conservative House Appropriations & Finance Committee (HAFC), chaired by HB 174’s bill sponsor, Rep. Nathan Small. Find contact info for HAFC members at this link. We are organizing a strong messaging campaign before the bill hits the Senate, but it is not too soon to share your concerns about HB 174. Defeating this bill would send a strong message to the Gov. and to decision-makers in D.C. who may begin to question if NM is as hydrogen compliant as is desired. Stay tuned. Stay Active. It is the only way we fix this mess.

The deck is clearly stacked, but we can still advance our values and priorities while protecting us from avarice and disregard.

In solidarity & hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Climate Justice

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6 replies

  1. Very clear points regarded LCE and Hydrogen. Thank you very much for all.

    • Very back door yes. Only 2 words second page, lowercase, “class 6”. Also note lines 19-20 where bill opens up direct funding by the special interests “…The fund consists of appropriations, gifts, grants and donations…”. Small/Dixon are no strangers to oil/gas donations. Q45 $$ value for class 6 injection so much more attractive over EOR.

  2. That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, she likes it, uh huh, uh huh.

  3. Thanks for this well-explained information and talking points. It’s very helpful.

    • Thank you so much for your succinct presentation of the facts and necessity. I feel so naive, but who/what entity can clearly communicate this info in order to educate and convince our Gov away from Hydrogen energy source???

  4. What do you guys know about HB243? Seems like an invitation to raise electric rates for any kind of new technology whether it’s needed or not?

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