No on SB194: Gas-fueled hydrogen plants are NOT renewable energy

SB194 will be heard in Senate Conservation Committee at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8.

If your Senator is on the committee, write your senator a personal note in opposition. If not, please write Sens. Liz Stefanics, Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, Bill Soules, Carrie Hamblen, Harold Pope and Joseph Cervantes. Please attend the hearing Tuesday, either in person or remotely (here’s the Zoom link).

SB194 changes the definition of “renewable energy” in the Renewable Energy Act to include hydrogen-based electric power if carbon dioxide emitted from production is permanently sequestered, the gas used to produce the hydrogen is certified as “responsibly sourced gas,” and the project produces no more than 375 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. There is nothing renewable in this process. Including carbon- and methane-emitting processes in the Renewable Energy Act is unacceptable

The EPA says gas plants have an average emission rate of 898 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. So this bill would define as “renewable energy” a power plant that produces about 42 percent as much carbon as a gas plant. The point of the Renewable Energy Act is to ramp emissions DOWN, and building a power plant that produces climate pollution means climate emissions would increase. It is literally the opposite of the purpose of the law and the opposite of what humanity needs to do in order to preserve a liveable future for our children and grandchildren. 

The definition would rely on carbon capture and sequestration, which has proven to be a costly failure that has caused millions of tons more carbon to enter the atmosphere. Permanent sequestration, especially in the San Juan Basin, is speculative at best. 

“Responsibly sourced gas” has no generally accepted standards and protocols. There are no “qualified independent organizations with nationally recognized expertise to provide such certification,” and only two verification companies operating. The Environment Department doesn’t have the tools or capacity to certify or “re-certify” RSG, as this legislation would require. 

There is an inherent conflict of interest for RSG certifiers retained by the gas seller or buyer. “Responsibly sourced gas” carves out a segment of the gas supply chain to be cleaned up while the majority remains a major source of climate pollution. An operator like Hilcorp, the largest methane emitter in the country, could carve out a group of wells to comply and supply gas for Escalante, while the rest of their operations — and all of the compressors, processing plants and pipelines, including those that move that gas to Escalante, continue to leak and pollute at massive levels

This bill is catered to Escalante to be able to sell power to PNM or other utilities to qualify under the Renewable Portfolio Standard. Methane-fueled hydrogen is not renewable, and changing the law to define it as such for one company’s profits is Orwellian. 

We don’t know where the carbon that companies claim they will capture will be sequestered. What we do know is that the massive climate pollution from methane leaks from gas extraction isn’t close to being accurately measured, and therefore any methane-fueled hydrogen project that would qualify as “renewable” would be a threat to the climate and our chances of salvaging a liveable world. We know we can’t cut methane emissions by producing more methane.


Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club, 505.715.8388, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org

Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, erikg@westernlaw.org

Tom Solomon, 350NM, tasolomon6@gmail.com 

Ahtza Chavez, NM Native Vote, ahtza@nmnativevote.org

Liliana Castillo, CAVU, liliana@cavu.org

No on SB194: Gas-fueled hydrogen plants are NOT renewable energy