SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Saturday, legislators will debate several bills with potentially big implications for New Mexico’s environment. On the table for the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee are bills that aim to address climate change, consolidate government resources, and oversee the closure of the San Juan Generating Station.

San Juan Cleanup

This morning, legislators will consider House Bill 142, sponsored by Representatives Anthony Allison (D-San Juan), Reena Szczepanski (D- Santa Fe), and Marian Matthews (D-Abq.). The bill lays out measurable steps towards the cleanup and environmental restoration of the San Juan Generating Station.

The coal-fired electricity generation station was built in the 1970s. For years, the operators have had plans to wind down operations at the station, which would help New Mexico meet its climate goals.

The City of Farmington has been involved in the process. Originally, Farmington was going to take over operations of the plant and retrofit the plant for continued operations. But in December of 2022, they announced the station shutdown.

House Bill 142 would give the state’s Department of Environment and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department the power to ensure that any demolition and cleanup of the decades-old plant does not release toxic chemicals into waterways or otherwise damage the local environment. The bill also puts $700,000 towards that goal.

Carbon Sequestration

Legislators will also consider House Bill 174, sponsored by Representatives Meredith A. Dixon (D-Abq.) and Nathan P. Small (D-Doña Ana). That bill creates a state fund to be used towards carbon sequestration.

Also known as carbon injection, sequestration, is the process of using wells to inject carbon dioxide (CO2) underground for long-term storage. Doing so offers one potential option to keeping climate-change-inducing CO2 out of New Mexico’s atmosphere.

But to properly sequester CO2, New Mexico would have to comply with federal regulations. The state’s Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources is already working through some of the regulatory process, but adding funding, as this bill would do, represent a “necessary initial investment” to get the program off the ground, according to the department.

Consolidating government departments

Saturday, legislators are also scheduled to consider House Bill 183. Sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Sandoval and Santa Fe), the bill aims to merge the state’s Department of Game and Fish with the Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources.

The state’s Department of Game and Fish generally administers rules regarding hunting and fishing. Under the proposed bill, it would still do so, but rather than be a separate department, it would be a division within the Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources.

In case you missed it: New House Republican Whip

In addition to a range of committee hearings yesterday, the House GOP announced a new Minority Caucus Whip. They elected Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell) for the roll, replacing Rep. Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho).

“I am humbled and honored to be selected to work with our new leadership team, Reps. Ryan Lane and Gail Armstrong and look forward to working to support New Mexico’s best interest as we debate public policy this session,” Nibert said in a press release.