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Home » Senate passed infrastructure package. What could it mean for climate change in New Mexico?

Senate passed infrastructure package. What could it mean for climate change in New Mexico?

Senate passed infrastructure package. What could it mean for climate change in New Mexico?

A federal infrastructure bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate could unlock federal funding to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, mitigate climate change and incentivize renewable energy.

All those issues have strong implications for New Mexico, a state that relies heavily on fossil fuels as a national leader in the production of oil and gas which many feared was a major contributor to pollution and ultimately climate change.

The state’s two Democrat U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan pointed to additions to the package they said would help combat environmental impacts while assisting their home state to transition away from fossil fuels.

More: New Mexico Rep.: Oil and gas communities must be valued in energy transition

About a third of New Mexico’s budget was tied to oil and gas in recent years when production boomed in the Permian Basin in the southeast corner of the state, leaving some concerned the state could be susceptible to the industry’s boom-and-bust nature.

When the COVID-19 health crisis hit, the state’s $2 billion budget surplus plummeted to an about $400 million deficit as the pandemic brought a slump in fuel demand.

Lujan’s Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act was included in the infrastructure package passed last week, and he argued it was a means to provide jobs during low periods in oil and gas operations while also mitigating a threat to the environment.

When oil wells are abandoned, they can leak pollutants into the air and water, and the government is often left to fund clean up when bonding agreements prove insufficient, he said.

The REGROW Act would earmark about $4.3 billion in federal funds to clean up orphaned wells across the country on state and private lands, along with $400 million for clean up on public and Tribal lands.

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