*Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected with the correct name of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico is on a path to a cleaner environment. It’s a priority legislators and the governor have been working towards for years. Now, lawmakers are debating one way to help: covering the cost of stripper well cleanup.
Stripper wells are oil and gas wells nearing the end of their life. House Bill 350, sponsored by a trio of Republican legislators, would give a tax credit to companies that install vapor recovery units on their stripper wells. These units help prevent the release of greenhouse gases.
“The purpose of this bill is trying to address small operators, small stripper wells, giving them a tax credit of $12,000 to address emissions coming from stripper wells across New Mexico,” bill co-sponsor Rep. James G. Townsend (R-Chaves, Eddy & Otero) told the House Taxation and Revenue Committee on Wednesday, March 1.
“About 15% of our state’s revenue comes from these small producing wells,” Townsend added. And if the state is going to spend money to improve the environment, this is a reasonable way to do that, Townsend said.
But several lobbyists spoke against the bill. “The bill suggests that taxpayers should pay for the compliance of an industry that has [created] and continues to create hazardous waste,” said Charles Goodmacher, representing Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s not fair to taxpayers.”
Rep. Jason C. Harper (R-Rio Rancho) defended the bill, saying that the bill is well put together. Harper then criticized environmental advocates: “Their number one mission is not the environment. It’s to destroy the oil and gas industry.” He noted that the legislature gives tax credits to renewable energy, so why not oil?
Not all lawmakers were on board with the idea though; some expressed concern that a tax credit would only prolong the state’s reliance on oil and slow the transition to renewable energy.
Following the debate, the committee ultimately decided to table the bill. That doesn’t mean the idea can’t be revived, but it does mean the chance of the bill becoming law any time soon is small.