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.

Oil and Gas industry trying to cut the line while putting us all at risk

Considering the unprecedented nature of our current public health and economic crisis, you might be surprised (or not) to know who’s trying to take advantage of the situation for their benefit. Yup, you guessed it, it’s the Oil and Gas Industry (of course). 

The reaches the oil and gas industry are going for are actually astounding given the circumstances — who else would even consider trying to relax and delay rules that protect public health during a public health crisis? Or give themselves a bailout at the expense of New Mexico’s schools, teachers and first responders at the exact moment the state is dealing with a budget crisis? 

This has been true at the national level as well as here in New Mexico with groups like the American Petroleum Institute, Power the Future and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association trying to use this crisis to advocate for weaker regulatory requirements and shirk their financial obligations to New Mexico taxpayers. And what’s even worse- the Trump Administration is giving this industry even more than it’s asking for, including a broad suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce its own rules. We’d understand if you missed headlines such as “Trump’s Move to Suspend Enforcement of Environmental Laws is a Lifeline to the Oil Industry” while worried about everything else, but truly this is a devastating turn of events for all of us, the air we breathe and the water we drink. 

The American Petroleum Institute (API) asked for a “lifeline” but Trump’s administration sent them a yacht.

NEW NUMBERS SHOW THE TRUE SCALE OF NEW MEXICO’S GROWING FLARING PROBLEM

The oil and gas industry has a dirty, and not so little, secret. There’s a movement to convince the public that natural gas is “clean” but methane leaks from these drilling sites are a huge and growing contributor to climate change in New Mexico. 

Here’s a video of a wellhead “venting” methane, as well as benzene and frankly other unknown material, on land utilized by a rancher in Rio Arriba County.  It’s telling how much gas is being released by the sound, louder than the running diesel engine and wind combined. 

Courtesy of Don Schreiber

And that’s not all, the oil and gas industry is also burning off literally tons of methane every day, wasting YOUR money, that should be going toward YOUR schools.  One metric the amount of wasted natural gas from New Mexico is MORE THAN the total amount of natural gas needed to heat every single home in the state EVERY YEAR. This was recently reconfirmed in an industry article from  S&P. 

“New Mexico’s top 15 oil and gas producers accounted for 78% of the 100.3 MMcf/d of natural gas the state’s operators flared in 2018, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of data collected by the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division. That year, the industry vented or flared enough gas to exceed the 94.4 MMcf/d consumed by the state’s 592,775 residential customers.”

In that article,  S&P created a chart showing the worst polluters (let’s not mince words here, that’s what they are). This data comes directly from the Oil Conservation Division. 

 Flared (January – June)Company20182019Devon2,207,7752,250,606XTO494,9481,541,514Marathon1,302,5791,470,907WPX685,5541,418,580Oxy516,4271,289,238Amerdev300,1281,064,029COG1,915,7701,042,110BOPCO297,487912,654

Let’s look at a few of these.

Congressional campaign manager “shoots” at rainbow-colored piñata “for (NM Leg) passing SB5”

It’s astounding the kind of hatred that has become commonplace in the wake of the current administration’s rise to power. From full-on white supremacists marching in the streets to policy-oriented mandates that have caged children and deported veterans. Here in New Mexico, unfortunately, the theme seems to have continued right down the line, with multiple instances of the State Republican party either directly contributing to something hate-filled, or ignoring it when one of their surrogates does something. That being said, we don’t have high hopes that anything will come of this report, but it remains important as ever to call out hatred and bigotry when we see it. The following images were actually POSTED to the Republican Party of Otero County, New Mexico Facebook page by Amy Smith Barela, the Chair of that group.