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The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday evening to help remediate an abandoned brine well in the city of Carlsbad.

House Bill 29, which aims to prevent a potential cavern collapse that could cause significant environmental and economic damage to Eddy County, passed on a bipartisan 66-3 vote.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Eddy, would establish an advisory authority to recommend policy and guide remediation efforts to stabilize the well and prevent a possible collapse. The authority would be composed of the mayor of Carlsbad, the chair of the Eddy County Commission, the secretary of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, the secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, the secretary of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, the Attorney General, the State Engineer, and the manager of the Carlsbad Irrigation District, or their designees.

Experts warn that a collapse could result in over $1 billion in damages to Carlsbad and the surrounding area. The threat of collapse poses a risk to public safety and endangers ground water quality.

“A collapse would impact the entire ‘South Y’ area, including two U.S. highways and a major irrigation canal,” said Brown. “A cavern collapse would be catastrophic for the city of Carlsbad and Eddy County. We need to move forward with remediation activities and avert this calamity while we can.”

Brown introduced a similar bill last year. It was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives, but it died in the Senate without action. This year, Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Eddy and Lea, has introduced similar legislation in the Senate, Senate Bill 4. Companion legislation has also been introduced to appropriate $500,000 for a design-build request for proposals to remediate the well.