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House panel endorses economic district in western NM

SANTA FE — A proposal aimed at helping New Mexico overcome the expected closure of a coal plant near Grants cleared a legislative hurdle Friday.

The legislation, House Bill 8, won a unanimous recommendation of approval from the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee — one of two panels it must clear before reaching the House floor.

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said it would be devastating if McKinley and Cibola counties can’t replace the jobs that will be lost when the Escalante plant closes later this year.

The bill would allow the formation of an economic development district and new taxing authority to aid in redevelopment of the site.

“It’s an opportunity take a lemon and make lemonade,” Lundstrom said.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association plans to shut down the coal-fired generating station near Grants later this year — eliminating roughly 100 jobs at the plant — as part of a transition to clean energy.

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