House passes legislation related to San Juan Generating Station's closure
FARMINGTON — A bill intended to address the closure of the San Juan Generating Station passed the House of Representatives on a 43-22 vote today. The meeting can be viewed online at nmlegis.gov.
The bill now goes to the governor's desk to be signed into law.
Environmental activists that support the bill say increasing the amount of renewable and carbon-free energy sources is vital to addressing climate change.
“Clean energy — not polluting and expensive coal — is the future in New Mexico,” said Mike Eisenfeld, a community organizer from San Juan Citizens Alliance, in a press release after the bill passed. “Thanks to the (Energy Transition Act), our community will have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from this exciting transition, while receiving vital economic support and job training.”
Public Service Company of New Mexico is the majority owner of the power plant and has stated it is more cost-effective to close the plant than to keep it open.
"This bill is not closing the plant, PNM is closing the plant," said Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe.
Some bill opponents say it does not go far enough to address economic impacts to San Juan County and say the San Juan Generating Station is prematurely closing.
In addition to increasing requirements for renewable energy, the bill creates three funds to help San Juan County after the power plant closes. These funds will be administered by the workforce solutions department, the economic development department and the Indian affairs department.
The bill also requires at least some of the replacement power to be built in Central Consolidated School District to make up for lost property tax revenue.
Rep. Strickler speaks in favor of carbon capture technology
Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, said the closure will lead to job losses.
"What we're trying to do as the San Juan County community is to save these jobs for as long as we can," Strickler said.
He highlighted the possibility of installing carbon capture and sequestration technology on the San Juan Generating Station.
Strickler said he supports parts of the bill, including allowing PNM to apply to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission for low-interest bonds to refinance its investment into the San Juan Generating Station.
Strickler said there are parts of the bill that pretty much mandates closing the power plant and the associated mine.
Bill sponsor Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, said if Acme Equities — a firm interested in acquiring the San Juan Generating Station — has a viable plan for carbon capture that includes financing, then the company can apply for an air quality variance that will allow the power plant to stay open.
Local officials, miners push for amendment
Several local officials, residents and miners attended the House Judiciary Committee on Monday to express opposition to the bill and to ask for an amendment that would allow Acme Equities to study installing carbon capture technology.
Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said Farmington has endorsed every element of the Energy Transition Act if it is amended to allow for a carbon capture study.
“Let’s maintain the jobs, let’s fight the battle for our environment and let’s keep our economy strong,” said Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett.
That amendment was not included in the bill.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.