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Don’t let ‘carbon capture’ spoil NM’s leadership

Don’t let ‘carbon capture’ spoil NM’s leadership

I was in my second year studying chemical engineering when I first understood the magnitude of our current climate crisis. I will never forget the moment when my professor sternly told us that in the next 50 years, wars will not be fought for oil, but for water.

Here in water-scarce New Mexico, our future is on the line, especially if we let greedy companies like Enchant Energy get their way.

Climate change is already increasing water scarcity in our state. The Union of Concerned Scientists calculates that the volume of the Southwest’s major waterways decreased by over a third between 2001 and 2010 from 20th century averages. The National Climate Assessment projects less precipitation and more consecutive dry days for New Mexico in the upcoming years, too.

Fortunately, New Mexico established itself as a leader in climate policy by passing the Energy Transition Act earlier this year. The legislation sets a pathway to reduce the state’s CO2 emissions to zero by 2045. That’s good for the climate and good for our water supply.

However, that progress could be ruined by the greed of new corporations coming into New Mexico.

Recently, Enchant Energy signed a “Transfer Agreement” with the city of Farmington to keep the San Juan Generating Station coal plant open after its scheduled closure in 2022. Rather than closing the plant, Enchant Energy proposed using carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) to reduce its emissions instead.

In reality, CCS is an unproven technology. It’s never operated at the scale of the San Juan plant. And Enchant Energy’s own presentation on the project says the carbon that would be captured will be sold back to oil and gas companies in southern New Mexico, who can then use it for fracking or oil recovery.

This means more fossil fuel extraction, more carbon emissions, and more ecological destruction for New Mexico. It’s a scam masquerading as environmentally friendly, and in reality it’s about nothing but profit.

Not only will it allow companies to extract more fossil fuel, it will also waste enormous amounts of water. A feasibility study by the firm Sargent and Lundy estimates, under the Water Rights Section 4.1.2, that the plant will continue to waste 6 billion gallons of water per year under the Enchant Energy plan.

I find this abuse of water absurd when the Farmington region’s neighbors, the Navajo Nation, are already facing water scarcity problems. According to the Navajo Water Project, Navajo are 67 times more likely to lack access to water and toilets than other Americans.

The Enchant Energy project would cost $1.2 billion, which the company claims would preserve 478 jobs directly and 1,000 indirectly. But that same $1.2 billion could be invested instead in infrastructure that will create more jobs and provide cleaner water for all New Mexicans – without running up our carbon emissions.

According to the United Association of Plumbers, an investment of this magnitude in water infrastructure would create up to 20,000 jobs directly and 74,000 indirectly – many times more than what the Enchant Energy project promises. It would better prepare New Mexicans for climate change, and it could provide water to communities like the Navajo Nation that already lack it today.

Don’t let this scam spoil New Mexico’s climate leadership. Water is life, and we must protect it. We must not let outside corporations put the future of New Mexico at risk.

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