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.

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?

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.

Happy Birthday New Mexico, you beautiful Capricorn you

New Mexico was admitted into the United States on January 6, 1912, to become the 47th state in the Union. We sure do love A LOT about living here, but we also see some places we can keep improving to make New Mexico that much better in the years to come! THINGS WE LOVE: I love our food, the deep culture, and above all the way we protect and lead in reproductive justice. New Mexico has been ahead of the curve in changing the paradigm around this, and other states actually defer to our methods/policies! ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Creating better access and equity of care in our mental health and recovery infrastructures. Developing and implementing sustainable programs and training for whole health, cultural competency, and epigenetic traumas for caregivers/providers.

Why you should care that New Mexico Oil & Gas is working with NAZIs

ProgressNow New Mexico has been working for the last few months to unravel the complicated ties that the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) has with numerous outside entities working to control the narrative around extraction in the state. We’ve found heaps of evidence to support our claims that NMOGA has evolved from just another industry advocate to fully trying to change the culture of New Mexico. We think it’s important you understand why this matters so here’s our quick rundown on everything you need to know. In 2017, NMOGA Executive Director Ryan Flynn gave a speech to members where he announced his intention to make NMOGA “the most powerful organization in the state of New Mexico.” Throughout the 2018 Legislative Session, we saw record amounts of spending from NMOGA to influence policy in that, the last year of Governor Susana Martinez’s last year in office.

Unmasking NMOGA’s ties to (EVEN MORE) national astroturf organizers

Happy Monday New Mexico. Do you have your Halloween costume picked out yet? Seems like the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association does. They are dressing up as right wing attack dogs Power the Future this year.  

As you know, NMOGA is working directly with Power the Future, a Koch-funded lobby group that seems to spend the majority of its (vast) resources attacking clean energy policy around the country. New Mexico has become ground zero for PTF, going so far as to hire former Martinez-era talking head Larry Beherns to be their point person on the ground here.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and Power the Future: Working together? CONFIRMED!

It also appears that NMOGA is working with top-tier far-right digital consulting firm Harris Media 

ProgressNow New Mexico has come into possession of a PowerPoint presentation from 2018 that was prepared by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and seemingly presented by their Communications Director Robert McEntyre. 

It contains slides with then forthcoming plans to expand their digital and traditional media reach into New Mexico, but more significantly, it confirms that NMOGA planned and has continued to collaborate directly with out-of-state lobbying group, Power the Future. 

You can see the whole slideshow here:

You can clearly see on slide six, the final bullet point: “Coordinate allied groups and align strategies and messaging.”

Given the layout of the presentation, it then appears that none other than Power the Future founder Daniel Turner himself was present to give some portion of the presentation, as his name card and that of his organization are similarly presented on slides 32 and 33. For the record, we know Turner was in NM during the summer of 2018. He tweeted a video of himself with a billboard Power the Future apparently bought in Sandoval County. 

Daniel Turner on Twitter

Here in beautiful New Mexico to support energy workers! Don’t let radical environmentalists take away your jobs. @powerthefuture #EnergyDominance #EnergyWorkers More to come, Sandoval County!! https://t.co/yF102QFP8l

Turner is based in Washington DC and started Power the Future sometime at the end of 2017, beginning of 2018. According to articles about him, he comes from working directly with Koch Industries and before that the Bush administration (Bush 2). Turner is obviously vehemently a climate science denier, but also a pro-Trump nationalist who echoes a lot of jingoist mantras on Twitter.

It’s Always Susana in New Mexico (at least when it comes to oil and gas)

ProgressNow New Mexico has published a number of articles about the deep ties the oil and gas industry has with former Governor Susana Martinez’ administration. But when you stop and look at the makeup of top lobbying groups like the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), so-called Power the Future, and top lobbyists for other extraction industry titans, the numbers are truly stunning. At least nine top lobbyists currently working in the extraction industry (or lobbyist adjacent) came directly out of the Martinez administration. The big problem? New Mexico doesn’t have a law that requires a “cooling off” period for officials once they leave the public sector and return to private life.

Almost 500 New Mexicans have already signed letters supporting our clean energy future: Now it’s your turn!

A few weeks back ProgressNow New Mexico published a blog exposing so-called “Power the Future” for the (likely) Koch Brothers-funded mouthpieces they really are. The response from across the state has been incredible! Click Here to send a letter NOW! Our friends at Conservation Voters of New Mexico even sent our blog out to their members with a call to action to tell Larry Behrens, PTF’s local spokes-lackey and long-time NM conservative mouthpiece, that New Mexicans are not reversing course. We’re invested in clean, renewable energy future AND in ensuring that workers from across the state, including those in the oil and gas fields, are represented with longterm and sustainable options not tied to the volatile global energy syndicates.