Today is March 14, 2018. It is the day after “filing day” in New Mexico when candidates file for their races around the state, from county commissions to the governor. With little exception, if candidates haven’t submitted the required amount of signatures or have for some other reason been disqualified by the Secretary of State’s office, we now have a pretty good idea of who’s running in 2018 across the board. ProgressNow New Mexico will be looking at some top-level races more in-depth over the next few weeks to bring our perspective to the key races we’re expecting to see in New Mexico this year. New Mexico is in the national spotlight as one of the “most likely to flip” states in terms of our governor’s race.
Yesterday, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association were beside themselves with news about increased production of oil in the state. Their press release was nearly copied verbatim by the Albuquerque Journal and other news outlets around the state. ProgressNow New Mexico’s Political Director Lucas Herndon issued a response to their claims.
“Claiming this is a financial boon for New Mexico without addressing the $180-$240 million dollars lost each year from wasted natural gas is disingenuous at best,” said Lucas Herndon, Political Director at ProgressNow New Mexico. “We know that the industry focuses on what it is extracting and not on what it’s losing because to them the losses are minimal. But to the citizens of New Mexico it’s literally tens of millions in unpaid taxes and royalties that should be going to schools and other programs,” Herndon said.
This is the fifth and final piece in a series of articles highlighting the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. NMOGA lobbies on behalf of oil and gas interests, seeking less regulation and oversight for their industry and greater access to political power in the state. Last year, the Executive Director of NMOGA, Ryan Flynn, spoke at their annual meeting about the future of oil and gas in New Mexico as they moved into the election cycle of 2018, their goals to seize power, and the strength of their “opposition,” the citizens of New Mexico who have pushed back against the fossil fuel industry and their stranglehold on the state at all levels.
Let’s recap what we have learned so far in looking more in-depth into NMOGA in the past month:
NMOGA’s Executive Director, Ryan Flynn, gave a speech last October to members of his association, the full transcript of which was leaked and full of some pretty concerning rhetoric. Besides proclaiming that his intention was to make NMOGA the “most powerful organization” in the state, Flynn also unabashedly pointed out his close personal ties with Governor Susana Martinez and touted that relationship as something positive for oil and gas companies.
Facing what news outlets described as “heavy criticism for his treatment of women and calls from top leaders in his own party to resign, Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez stepped down on Thursday.” This comes less than a week after ProgressNow New Mexico issued a public petition calling for his resignation. Vasquez had faced direct actions from residents at the two most recent county commission meetings after he engaged in an “inappropriate” conversation with a local activist on Facebook wherein he made “your momma” jokes as well as using racist and misogynist language. Just hours after the most recent county commission meeting, news broke that Vasquez was being accused of “inappropriate sexual misconduct” by a woman within the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Vasquez denied the accusations but in his resignation letter admitted he needs to “focus on my marriage.”
This year’s 30-day session saw a litany of conservative attempts to once again limit women’s reproductive options in New Mexico by pushing for laws that interfere with personal reproductive health care decisions and that reinforce shame and stigma. Thankfully the progressive majority in both the House and Senate held such arcane bills at bay in committees, keeping reproductive choice in the hands of families who are the sole deciders of their health decisions. In this election year, it’s important that we remain focused on who these obstructionist legislators are so that voters can help move New Mexico forward in assuring women and families have access to whatever healthcare options are right for them, up to and including abortion. Every Representative above voted to restrict access to abortion in some form this year, and in years past. That includes Democratic Representatives Debbie Rodella and Carl Trujillo.
Some “highlights” of the session include when Minority Leader Nate Gentry attempted to politicize a visit from Albuquerque Police Officer Ryan Holets.
Primary elections in New Mexico take place in June, and the general election isn’t until November but knowing where candidates stand on the issue of smarter gun laws is something we should all be paying attention to now. With the momentum from the brave students in Florida who survived last weeks massacre who are demanding something be done about the lax gun laws in this country, current elected leaders and candidates should be seeing this as cornerstone issue for 2018. And, this past 30-day session the issue of smarter gun laws hardly made a blip. As the Santa Fe New Mexican put it:
Debate over gun control may be raging in many parts of the country, but little of it has been heard at New Mexico’s Capitol. The issue barely registered during the legislative session that began a month after a gunman killed two students at a school in Aztec and ended the same week a shooter in Florida killed 17 people at a high school.
While much of the state has been focused this week on the end of the Legislature’s 30-day session, the news cycle in Doña Ana County has been dominated all week by story after story about the incredibly inappropriate behavior of County Commissioner John Vasquez.
Vasquez has been in the hot seat for a few weeks now as he refused to apologize for a series of misogynist insults and racially charged innuendo toward a local organizer in Doña Ana County, Johana Bencomo. After Bencomo formally leveled a complaint against Vasquez to the County Commission, more allegations of bad behavior began to surface.
In a letter addressed to the Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, Richard Ellenberg, Vice-chair of the party Neomi Martinez-Parra referenced “inappropriate sexual misconduct” from Vasquez toward her. Ellenberg has since addressed the issue in an open letter of apology to Martinez-Parra, which also called on Vasquez to resign. That sentiment that Vasquez needs to resign began when Bencomo initially addressed Vasquez and the County Commission on January 19th, but has now been echoed by both Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall who have called for Vasquez’ resignation in a statement that was also signed by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and State Representative Angelica Rubio. Additionally, the entire Democratic caucus from Doña Ana County has signed a statement calling on the County Commission to “investigate and take action.”
In the age of the powerful #MeToo movement, it is important that the public at large, not just our elected officials, stand ready to listen to women when they come forward with allegations of abuse and harassment from men in power.
Today, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed gutting the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane Waste Prevention rule, which was designed to limit the wasteful venting and flaring of methane from oil and gas operations on public lands. And Congressman Steve Pearce was right there to applaud this giant step backward.
In supporting efforts to rollback needed methane waste standards, Pearce is completely ignoring the fact that methane venting and flaring costs New Mexicans MILLIONS in lost revenue every year. New Mexico wastes more natural gas (primarily made up of methane) from it’s federal and tribal lands than any other state – $100 million worth of natural gas annually that should be generating millions more in royalty revenue for New Mexico schools. Pearce has a long history of supporting the extraction industry over the actual wishes of his own constituents. Whether it’s voting against the methane rule or opposing preserving public lands, Pearce has sided with extraction related industries at every turn.
Secretary Zinke’s proposal would severely weaken efforts to curb waste on public lands, leading to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer-owned energy every year.
This is the fourth in a series of articles highlighting the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. NMOGA lobbies on behalf of oil and gas interests, seeking less regulation and oversight for their industry and greater access to political power in the state. Last year, the Executive Director of NMOGA, Ryan Flynn, spoke at their annual meeting about the future of oil and gas in New Mexico as they moved into the election cycle of 2018, their goals to seize power, and the strength of their “opposition,” the citizens of New Mexico who have pushed back against the fossil fuel industry and their stranglehold on the state at all levels.
NMOGA’s Executive Director has made a lot of big claims about how his industry aims to help New Mexicans, especially pointing out the fiscal returns to schools from lease permits from oil and gas companies. But what kind of quality of life can families expect in New Mexico if methane, benzene, and other pollution is being vented right next door to a school or a day-care center?
Today the New Mexico State The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Air Quality Bureau is meeting to decide the fate of proposed new rules governing how oil and gas companies are allowed to build new facilities within the state.
Progressive leaders from within the ProgressNow network are speaking in one loud voice: The Democratic National Committee must respect women and support reproductive rights, including abortion, at every level. 18 Executive Directors from across the country sent an open letter to the DNC leadership last month calling on the trust and respect women to make their own healthcare decisions and to not compromise at all with a Republican party bent on the total and absolute outlawing of abortion. From the letter:
As progressives, it isn’t enough for us just to oppose Republican policies or promote reproductive rights when we are directly under attack. We must stand for a vision that speaks to fundamental values of autonomy, equity, liberty and self-determination and fight for an America where people can access the medical care they deserve based on their own judgment, including abortions. Trusting and equipping women to regulate their own reproductive lives is fundamental to achieving the kind of gender, race and economic equity that the Democratic Party articulates as its key values.