Briefs

New Mexico to join western coalition in bid for federal hydrogen hub

By: - February 24, 2022 11:25 am

A hydrogen pumping station for hydrogen-powered cars in Berlin, Germany in 2020. (Photo by Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday morning that New Mexico would join three other states in a bid to lure billions of dollars toward the creation of a federal hydrogen hub in the region.

The federal infrastructure package includes $8 billion toward the creation of at least four hydrogen production centers around the country. The governor’s announcement Thursday says New Mexico is joining Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to put in a bid to become one of those hubs, with the four states signing a preliminary agreement.

The agreement spells out an effort to respond to a request for proposals from the federal government, expected to be issued in May. It says the four states are “uniquely qualified and situated” to become a hub with a thriving hydrogen economy, given the presence of alternative fuel sources like solar and wind, a “sophisticated” oil and natural gas industry, “early stage” hydrogen initiatives, national laboratories and other factors. 

Update Friday Feb. 25:

According to Governor’s Office spokesperson Nora Sackett, “clean hydrogen” is defined in the federal infrastructure law and in the agreement between the states. The bill defines hydrogen as “clean” if it produces one kilogram of hydrogen per two kilograms of carbon dioxide “at the point of production.”

The bill does not appear to specify whether carbon-producing inputs elsewhere in the production affect the “clean hydrogen” definition.

“New Mexico’s commitment to growing renewable energy and meeting its ambitious climate goals lays the foundation for a thriving clean hydrogen economy,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release. “Make no mistake, New Mexico and our partner states will succeed in developing the nation’s most productive clean hydrogen hub.”

The coalition announcement comes after a push to make New Mexico its own hydrogen hub failed during the 30-day legislative session. The legislation would have offered enticements to encourage hydrogen production here, including at least $125 million in taxpayer-funded loans and grants, plus at least $25 million in tax credits before fiscal year 2026, according to an analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. (The LFC report said the tax credit cost was “difficult to determine but likely significant.”) 

The bill was one of Lujan Grisham’s priorities this session, but it failed following hours of debate and criticism by environmental groups and some lawmakers. 

They were concerned that the plan was to create hydrogen using natural gas by converting oil and gas facilities into production plants. Carbon dioxide, a byproduct of this production method, would need to be sequestered, according to the measure. 

Opponents of the bill questioned why there weren’t more incentives to produce “green hydrogen,” which can be produced using renewable energy sources instead.

The memorandum sent out Thursday uses the phrase “clean hydrogen” three times without defining it. 

NM leaders promote hydrogen production despite questionable environmental benefits

 

The memorandum is signed by all four governors, including Lujan Grisham, Jared Polis of Colorado, Spencer Cox of Utah and Mark Gordon of Wyoming. Lujan Grisham and Polis are Democrats; Cox and Gordon are Republicans. Other states can join, as well, according to the memorandum.

Signatories of the memorandum all agree not to submit their own proposals to the federal government and to contribute to a task force developing one for a region-wide hydrogen hub. 

 

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard. Along the way, he's won several state and national awards for his reporting, including for an exposé on a cult-like Alcoholics Anonymous group and a feature on an Upstate New York militia member who died of COVID-19. He's thrilled to be back home in New Mexico, where he works to tell stories that resonate and make an impact.

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