SANTA FE — The fight over hydrogen continues to generate steam at the Roundhouse.
A House committee heard heated public testimony for nearly three hours Wednesday evening — but did not vote — on the latest hydrogen-related measure that was brought forward under a “dummy bill” process.
Dummy bills, also known as generic or emergency bills, can be used a vehicle to revive stalled legislation, often with substantial changes.
Already, one other such bill was shelved this week by House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who said it would not move forward before the 30-day legislative session ends Feb. 17.
And two other hydrogen-related bills have stalled during the session amid opposition from environmental groups, who say they would continue New Mexico’s reliance on fossil fuels and could stymie efforts to expand renewable energy sources.
The new bill, House Bill 228, would not provide tax credits to businesses in designated hydrogen hubs like under a previous proposal.
Instead, it would allow for public-private partnerships targeted at hydrogen development, said Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, who is sponsoring the legislation.
But that did not dampen opposition against the proposal, as roughly 200 people logged on to testify against it during Wednesday’s hearing, which was conducted remotely.
“The hydrogen hubs merely prop up a dying industry,” said Mariel Nanasi, the executive director of New Energy Economy, one of the many groups opposing the hydrogen legislation.
Under the bill, New Mexico’s hydrogen hubs would be overseen by an 11-member board that would be made up of Cabinet officials and legislative appointees.
Bill backers have argued hydrogen could help fill a void left by coal-fired power. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer testified in support Wednesday, as did other elected officials from northwest New Mexico, a key natural gas-producing region,
Keven Groenewold, the chief executive director of the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association, called it an economic development bill for rural areas.
“We see this as a great opportunity for new jobs,” Groenewold said during Wednesday’s meeting of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
The committee could vote on the bill by as soon as today, and Lundstrom said the comments against the bill reflected a “clear lack of respect for northwest New Mexico.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has pushed lawmakers to approve a hydrogen bill during this year’s session and said Wednesday she is confident legislation will pass despite the staunch opposition.
“I think you’ll see a hydrogen piece of legislation make its way,” she told reporters.
A budget bill approved last week by the House would earmark $125 million in federal relief funds for hydrogen energy development in New Mexico, but only if lawmakers approve a standalone bill setting up some sort of legal framework.