Collaborative effort nets $35 million for remediation; strengthens management authority


SANTA FE—The 2018 legislative session ended today at noon, and it marked several key victories for Carlsbad-area residents.


After years of work to educate and alert officials about the threat posed by a massive underground cavity at an abandoned brine well site in Carlsbad, Southeast NM legislators broke through the impasse and achieved passage of several important measures critical for remediating the site and preventing a catastrophic collapse.


First, the legislative delegation of Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad), Rep. James Townsend (R-Artesia), Rep. Larry Scott (R-Hobbs), Sen. Caroll Leavell (R-Jal), Sen. Gay Kernan (R-Hobbs), and Sen. Ron Griggs (R-Alamogordo) worked determinedly to secure nearly $35 million for remediation efforts. The bulk of the funding was made possible through the passage of Senate Bill 226. SB 226 redistributes 4.15% of the state Motor Vehicle Excise Tax from the general fund to the state road fund. This change will provide approximately $30 million over the next four years to begin work stabilizing the site. SB 226 was signed by Governor Susana Martinez this morning. Additional funds were provided through capital outlay requests and local matches.


Second, in the final minutes of the legislative session, legislators passed House Bill 319 to reorganize the existing Carlsbad Brine Well Remediation Authority (CBWRA). HB 319 converts the CBWRA from an advisory role to an executive decision-making entity with the power to set policy, supervise and administer remediation activities. It also designates the Secretary of the NM Energy, Mining and Natural Resources Department as the chair of the authority. HB 319 now awaits the governor’s signature.


“Gaining these resources for the brine well remediation was a team effort with much hard work contributed many individuals over several years,” said Rep. Brown. “Technical experts, Dr. George Veni of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and retired mining executive Don Purvis, worked tirelessly to inform legislators and other state officials about this issue. Advisory Authority members and the Carlsbad Bat Brigade also made the rounds in Santa Fe to emphasize the importance of this situation to Southeast New Mexico. Thanks to their commitment to this cause, we were able to convince our colleagues of the urgency of this matter. In the end, everything fell into place this year, and we received unanimous support. I am very pleased that we can finally move forward.”


Sen. Leavell remarked, “Rep. Cathrynn Brown is my hero. I have served in the Legislature for 21 years, and I have never seen anything like the support she was able to build for this effort.”