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New Mexicans denounce DOE hydrogen investments and push state to invest in renewables
SANTA FE, N.M.— As climate justice advocates push for 100% renewable investment at the launch of a new state climate investment center, the Biden administration announced today it will invest $7 billion to rapidly expand the production and use of hydrogen, which the U.S. Department of Energy is championing as a purported climate solution despite the heavy reliance on fossil fuels in its production.
“The Biden administration is putting frontline communities at risk by delaying a Just Transition,” said Alejandria Lyons, coordinator of the New Mexico No False Solutions Coalition. “We saw 75,000 people march in the streets of New York just a few weeks ago demanding an end to the fossil fuel economy and false solutions such as hydrogen. But instead of heeding the call of communities affected by this toxic industry our supposed ‘climate leaders’ are looking to new and unproven industries that delay the economic transition.”
New Mexico climate justice advocates celebrated the denial of the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub (WISHH) application submitted by the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Earlier this year advocates wrote to the DOE asking the agency to deny the WISHH application because it would “devastate public health, clean air, Indigenous sacred places and the climate, and does not have the support of communities in New Mexico who would be the most impacted by the proposal, particularly poor and people of color who already experience cumulative impacts on their health, environment, social and economic wellbeing.”
“The announcement of hydrogen hub funding across the country is concerning as it will continue to serve fossil fuel interests and create more harmful energy infrastructure development in frontline communities,” said Julia Bernal, executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance. “While the grassroots movement in New Mexico can celebrate that the WISHH wasn’t funded, we will continue to stand in solidarity with the multiple grassroots movements that have a big fight ahead against hydrogen.”
The New Mexico No False Solutions Coalition has repeatedly urged the Department of Energy to ditch hydrogen hub investments, which will intensify the climate emergency by emitting greenhouse gases and increase pollution in frontline communities. Along with environmental justice groups and allies across the country, the coalition has emphasized that no matter the power source or end use, hydrogen production, fuel mixing, and transportation pose unacceptable risks to public health and safety. Hydrogen is more likely to explode, burns hotter than conventional fossil fuels and is more corrosive to pipelines.
“Our communities cannot continue to be sacrificed for unproven technologies”, said Sofia Martinez, coordinator of Los Jardines Institute. “The capacity for hydrogen is unknown but its explosive nature and fossil fuel and water dependence is well documented. This is a critical moment for the state of New Mexico to embrace a truly just transition by focusing investment of our tax dollars in renewable solar and wind power and the transmission infrastructure needed to build a fossil-free energy capacity.”
In today’s announcement, the Department of Energy said it will develop regional clusters of hydrogen production, transportation and use under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Department funded hubs in the Gulf Coast (Texas and Louisiana) and in the Mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey), Appalachia (Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio), the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana and Michigan), the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota), the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Montana), and California.
Currently, 99% of hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels. The New Mexico No False Solutions coalition remains vigilant that the funding of hydrogen hubs in nearby states may put further demand on natural gas production in New Mexico, exacerbating existing impacts of oil and gas pollution and transportation for frontline communities.
“Investment in hydrogen is a reckless decision made by the Biden administration in the midst of the climate emergency,” said Ennedith López, policy campaign manager with Youth United for Climate Crisis Action. “Hydrogen enforces this country’s legacy of environmental racism by sacrificing our communities in the interest of profit. Rather than investing in unproven technology that will prolong our toxic dependence on fossil fuels, we need to be investing in community-based renewable energy solutions that build resilience and center justice and equity. Today the state of New Mexico is launching the Climate Investment Center which our communities are demanding be free of false solutions like hydrogen and prioritize the needs and demands of frontline and environmental justice communities.”
The No False Solutions Coalition was present today at the Governor’s Announcement of the new Climate Investment Center, where the Governor said that her administration remained “all in” for hydrogen despite not receiving hub funding. Photos and videos of the group holding banners and speaking with the Governor are available here.
Statements from the New Mexico No False Solutions Coalition and Network:
“We can not continue to invest into fossil fuel technology that poses a risk to our health and the environment,” said Krystal Curley, executive director of Indigenous Lifeways. “Hydrogen is an extremely small molecule which makes it more challenging to contain than natural gas. If a hydrogen plant or pipeline were to catch fire, it would burn either ultraviolet or transparent flames because of the extremely high temperature it radiates, thus making it more flammable than natural gas! How is this a Just Transition? By funding hydrogen hubs, the Biden administration is putting people’s lives, lands, and waters at risk. We demand clean and healthy jobs that are in direct alignment with the natural world”.
“For 2 years, the Biden Administration has been planning a hydrogen economy, and for 2 years Diné frontline, disadvantage, impacted, and energy host communities have heard nothing from either WISHH, SHINe, or DOE, especially about the potential risks of hydrogen,” said Jessica Keetso, community organizer with Tó Nizhóní Ání. “We are happy the WISHH was not funded thanks to grassroots opposition, but frontline communities across the country where hubs were selected are still going to experience the negative impacts of hydrogen production. I hope the DOE and the Biden Administration know that we see their hydrogen scheme for what it is, a waste of money and a waste of humanity’s time in the face of the climate crisis.”
“The Biden administration’s decision to throw billions of dollars at massively expanding the hydrogen industry flies in the face of climate science and energy justice,” said Silas Grant at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hydrogen hubs will perpetuate our catastrophic reliance on fossil fuels when the administration should be urgently moving us toward a just transition to renewables.”
“The idea of clean hydrogen is a fallacy, and the carbon capture scam the hydrogen industry claims will erase all their sins have proven to be boondoggles, resulting in billions of dollars in stranded assets foisted onto taxpayers. The proposed hydrogen hub in New Mexico was rejected, but the Federal Government’s investments in dirty hydrogen will still impact all of us, and fossil fuel industry lobbyists continue to target New Mexico. These false climate solutions will only serve to detract and delay investments in proven technologies like solar, wind and battery storage,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy.
“The federal government is rolling the dice by approving this hydrogen bomb,” said Melissa Troutman, climate and energy advocate at WildEarth Guardians. “As climate crises like wildfires and water scarcity intensify, decisions to continue sacrificing these lands and communities fan the flames of revolt. There are safer, more just solutions, and the choice to perpetuate this level of harm and risk says it all. Biden: We are here. Our lives matter. We see how much they matter to you.”
“Fossil fuel companies are trying to use hydrogen as a ‘transition’ play to save their stranded assets and protect their record profits,” said Marion Gee, co-executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance. “The reality is this technology is incredibly inefficient; it is volatile for transportation and a public safety hazard; requires enormous government (our tax dollars) investment to make it economically feasible; creates minimal highly skilled jobs that would not benefit local communities; and is very inefficient, with some estimates upwards of 70% of energy lost. Our investments in renewable energy and communities should not be hijacked by fossil fuel companies, polluting industries and private equity who want to use government monies to shore up their exploitative profits. The Biden administration should be working with Congress and the Department of Energy to move these tax credits and grants to proven, community-driven and accountable renewable energy sources.”
“The Biden administration has given the order for blanket expansion of hydrogen infrastructure without regard to the impacts of hydrogen technology on communities at the frontlines of historic resource extraction and pollution,” said Adrien Salazar, policy director at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. “It is a blatant injustice that the same communities that have long suffered from the impacts of extraction and dirty energy pollution are the same communities being relegated to sacrifice zones for the buildout of hydrogen infrastructure. While energy storage is critical for a just transition to a renewable energy economy, over 95% of the hydrogen in use today is produced using fossil fuels. It is unsound and unjust that the Biden administration is ramping up this inefficient technology that is simply propping up fossil fuels and reinforcing environmental racism.”
Additional photos and video available here.