Establishment GOP and NMOGA are still arguing about the oil and gas industry’s role in the state; meanwhile, the state has moved on.

A weeks-long battle continues to spill over into public spheres as Steve Pearce uses his seat as the Chair of the state Republican Party to hammer away at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, specifically their Executive Director Ryan Flynn. The gist of the argument is that Flynn is doing exactly what he said he was going to do in 2017 by making his organization a relevant political force in the state politically and Pearce doesn’t like having competition. 

ProgressNow New Mexico has written extensively about Flynn’s statements and actions over the last few years and how scary it is for anyone who cares about actual democracy to see NMOGA and the companies they represent weighing in so heavily when it comes to state politics. It’s nothing new, but it’s just so blatant and out in the open now, as well as being paired with dangerous far-right ideology via the Trump-campaign machine via Power the Future and Harris Media running their social media. 

So on the surface, Pearce is right (gag) about NMOGA being so overtly political, but of course, we know Pearce is deeply tied to oil and gas both personally and professionally as well and that under his leadership the NM GOP has also become an utter cesspool of racist and jingoistic characters like Couy Griffin and Rep. Greg Nibert. 

The funniest thing about this argument at its core, however, is how utterly futile and useless it is. Oil and gas is on its way out in New Mexico and everyone seems to know it but them. That includes many of the industry giants that are members of NMOGA and use their wealth to dominate politics in New Mexico. 

Companies like BP and Chevron, amongst others, are increasingly making investments in the renewable energy sector both for their own operations and for their investors.

Uh oh, Steve Pearce is mad at (checks notes) the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association… um, what?

This past weekend, unemployed former Congressman Steve Pearce, chair of the deeply racist New Mexico Republican Party, threw stones at the glass house of his sugar daddy, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA). In all fairness, he wasn’t wrong about a lot of what he accused them of, but it certainly was amusing to see someone who’s whole career has been saturated in oil money yelling about the people who spend oil money with wild abandon. We lol’d. 

Pearce, along with Rep. Jim Townsend of Artesia and Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales, penned their missive to accuse specifically NMOGA’s President Ryan Flynn of making “false statements about the status of the industry and distorting the policy positions and actual votes on key legislation by our elected officials that impacts the industry’s future in New Mexico.” Um, damn Steve, that’s what we’ve been saying. 

All this stems from former “Democrat” Harry Teague’s endorsement of Republican Yvette Herrell for New Mexico’s second Congressional district (yes, the same one that Pearce vacated to try and fail spectacularly at running for governor). In the AP article about the endorsement, Flynn was quoted as saying “Throughout her first term in Congress, she (Rep. Xochitl Torres Small) has been a strong advocate for our state’s energy interests and responsible production and has stood up to those in her party who want to completely ban fracking.” 

Obvs we’re not stoked about that being true, but it is interesting to see Pearce get so ticked off that his oil buddies are happy working with his replacement. Pearce also claims that NMOGA has given too rosy of a picture of the future of the oil and gas industry’s recovery in New Mexico, trying to push his party’s line that the only cure for the state is full austerity like that instituted in Greece.

A reminder of the deep ties between Trump, his racist funders, and the oil and gas industry as a whole.

Arch Republican and avowed racist Couy Griffin has been invited to meet with Trump tomorrow while the President is in Texas to discuss the oil and gas industry as it tries to recover from being an outdated and overly-bloated relic of the industrial past. What do all these things have in common? 

Well over the weekend Griffin, an elected official from Otero County and leader of the so-called “Cowboys for Trump” militia, recorded himself calling for all people of color to be dispelled from the United States and to “to go back to where (they) came from.” Meanwhile, Trump today is attempting to bypass the Supreme Court’s recent decision on DACA by directing his administration to not accept new applications for those eligible for the program. And like, you know, all the other racist stuff he’s done over the past few years… (well, his life really). 

The story that other media outlets have refused to cover for well over a year now is the well-documented connection between oil and gas lobby groups here in New Mexico and racist, specifically White Nationalists, groups at the national level. 

So while some racists like Griffin and Trump shout their hatred of BIPOC from whatever mountain top they can, the more insidious problem is where they’re getting their money from, groups like the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and Power The Future, who together have spent millions of dollars to elect people like Griffin locally to support their industry with no accountability for their racist platform. We KNOW that NMOGA and PTF have also hired actual White Nationalists to manage their social media as well, through the guise of Harris Media in Texas, a PR firm that has been well documented in helping manage White Nationalist campaigns in Germany, Israel, and right here in the US. 

We also know that at the national level, Power the Future has members of its board with close ties to Trump’s official campaign with access to literally MILLIONS of dollars to fund astroturf campaigns like PTF in states like New Mexico. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve reported this but maybe while people are paying attention to the loud parts like Griffin yelling “go back to Africa” they can take the time to think about how all this is funded and works behind the scenes too. NMOGA and PTF aren’t operating in a vacuum, their membership includes groups like the City of Albuquerque and other municipalities in the state, so there are some direct ties to your tax dollars and how these racist groups are able to continue controlling government in the state of New Mexico.

Why New Mexico needs its own state methane rule now more than ever

You may have seen the news last night or this morning that a judge has reinstated Obama-era methane rules nationwide effective immediately. While this is a great win, it’s temporary given the decision will likely be appealed and the oil and gas industry’s challenge to the original 2016 rule in the District Court of Wyoming will be revived. 

At some point, we would love to see a strong, comprehensive federal methane regulation because air and climate pollution doesn’t stop at the state line, but for New Mexicans, there’s no time to waste. 

Under guidance from Governor Lujan Grisham’s 2019 Executive Order, state agencies have been hard at work to craft a rule that would apply to oil and gas companies in New Mexico that vent, flare, or otherwise leak methane. Methane emissions aren’t just about the greater impact of climate change (methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the near-term at trapping heat), but also affect the air we breathe. Oil and gas producing counties are dangerously close to exceeding federal clean air protections for smog, and those living closest to development are more at risk of exposure to hazardous air pollutants. 

One study found that this pollution was literally a matter of life and death to marginalized communities that live near active well zones. In a recent report from Energywire, there is a documented negative effect of rates of preterm birth among women in areas with concentrations of methane like the Permian or San Juan basins. 

“The authors said their findings ‘suggest the effects of flaring on the length of gestation are independent’ of other potential health risks tied to living near oil and gas wells.

Uncovering the truth: Who’s really behind Power The Future, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, and the Big Oil money driving New Mexico politics

In the era of big-money Political Action Committees (PACs) it can be difficult to know what messaging is coming from which candidate or PAC, which is the whole point really. As New Mexicans have begun early voting (we strongly encourage absentee voting!), there have been tons of ads and stories about the big money trying to influence voters of every stripe. And while one of the bigger stories seems to be the war being waged between the campaigns of two Republican candidates for New Mexico’s Second Congressional district, one key factor we found seems to be missing from those stories. 

It’s been reported that a PAC called Citizens for a United New Mexico is associated with some big names in the oil business here in the state, specifically Butch Mathews. The same AP story also lists a “GOP operative” Charles Gantt as being associated with the PAC as “Custodian of Record” and states he works with a company called Bulldog Compliance, part of a larger company Red Curve Solutions. 

But none of the stories here in New Mexico have dug into who Gantt really is, and why his involvement in New Mexico politics is something we take VERY seriously. Gantt’s name appears on dozens of public documents affiliated with hard-right PACs at both the national and local levels.

“Cowboys for Trump” leader uses anti-Native American expression to call for violence against political rivals

A disturbing video has been making its way around the internet since the beginning of the week, after some high-profile politicos in the state finally made statements, media stories have begun to appear about it, but most fail to call out some of the deeper and more sinister meaning behind it. Otero County Commissioner and “Cowboys for Trump” leader Couy Griffen said in a recent video that (and we are quoting this historically racist phrase, be warned) “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” That phrase, originally coined by Civil War general Philip Sheridan about Native Americans and made “popular” by Theodore Roosevelt, is clearly hate-speech and a dog whistle for white supremacists. Even IF you were unaware of the historical context, the call for political violence is clearly unacceptable but in line with Griffen’s brand of far-right, alt-right thuggery. Griffen’s Cowboy group have made something of a name for themselves riding their horses and dressing in costumes around the country in support of Trump but specifically showing up to support the most extreme far-right policies of his platform like vigilante groups along the southern border and bringing guns to the state capitol.

Despite price crash, Big Oil is still spending big in New Mexico elections

As the price of crude oil continues to struggle given the global pandemic and reduced demand and overproduction, America’s oil companies are seeking access to government programs to grant them “liquidity” during these “tough times.” They keep saying they’re not asking for a bailout, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, right? 

But wait, if times are so tough, how are these companies spending so much money to try and influence elections in places like New Mexico? Apparently, they can’t even “afford” to abide by decade-old EPA regulations, according to their own spokespeople. National companies like Chevron and big companies in the state like Mack and Yates, along with their lobbyist lackeys, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and Power the Future, have amassed over $700,000 in the latest campaign finance reports, and we’re still a week out from early voting starting. To be clear, that’s new money since the last reports, those PACs all have other funds available as well, from previous campaigns. 

According to the most recent financial reporting documents filed with the Secretary of State, three big PACs have amassed a huge war chest aimed at pushing their industry-first policies across state government. Oh, and that doesn’t include spending from national Super PACs like Citizens for a United New Mexico which has over $70,000 on hand to spend on just ONE race.

VOTANDO EN TIEMPOS DE COVID-19

En medio de estos tiempos sin precedentes, queremos proporcionar un lugar para tener acceso a qué recursos están disponibles para continuar participando en nuestra democracia de la mejor manera posible. Una decisión reciente de la Corte Suprema de Nuevo México declaró que la votación en persona todavía debe ser una opción en las siguientes elecciones, por lo que la votación anticipada comenzará en persona el 5 de Mayo. Sin embargo, debido a que la mayoría de nuestras comunidades seguirán bajo órdenes de quedarse en casa debido a COVID-19, se puede votar en ausencia, una opción segura y fácil para continuar su distanciamiento social. En primer lugar, solicitar una boleta de votación en ausencia es una opción. ¡AHORA MISMO!

What regulations? Oil and Gas Giants refuse to tell New Mexicans if they’re following federal health standards

An article from the past weekend from the Santa Fe New Mexican titled “Environmental groups worry EPA memo will lead to uptick in pollution” is worth taking a second look at for anyone paying attention to the oil and gas industry. 

For some context, the Trump Administration has offered the industry a get out of jail free card from  Environmental Protection Act enforcement during the COVID-19 crisis, essentially making decades of important health and safety rules moot. t’s not hard to assume that as soon as the overseeing agency says they’re not going to be checking up that the oil and gas industry will stop complying with our health-based clean air and water laws. 

According to the article from this weekend, that’s pretty much what’s happening. 

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Chevron, Veronica Flores-Paniagua, forwarded a blog post from the American Petroleum Institute, which had originally asked the EPA for the monitoring flexibility, that claimed the “temporary relief for non-essential compliance requirements” does not constitute a rollback of environmental enforcement. Julie King, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, also said the energy company complies “with all laws, rules and regulations applicable to our business.” Neither said, however, whether the two companies would voluntarily continue to submit emissions reports or other previous environmental requirements that can be temporarily waived by the EPA. Right… So the spokespeople say they’re going to keep complying with EPA standards, but also won’t say if they’re going to submit the actual reports to prove that they are. What’s that old saying about trust but verify? 

And meanwhile the state’s three deep pocketed oil and gas front groups, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM) and Power the Future are all lobbying for relaxed and delayed environmental protections as well. 

So what about the state’s ability to monitor these companies?

Voting in the time of COVID-19 *UPDATED*

In the midst of this unprecedented time, we wanted to provide a place for everyone to find out what resources were available to continue participating in our democracy to the best of your ability. 

A recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision declared that in-person voting must still be an option, so early voting will begin in-person May 5th. However, because the extent to which communities will still be under stay-at-home orders because of Covid-19, if you are able to vote absentee it is a safe and easy choice to continue your social distancing. First of all, applying for an absentee ballot is an option. RIGHT NOW! Click on this link to be taken directly to the Secretary of State’s Absentee Ballot Application page.