This is the second 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.
As Executive Director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Ryan Flynn is making good on his promise to his organization to become “the most powerful organization in the state of New Mexico, period.” Last week there were multiple reports from around the state that as a whole, the oil and gas industry far exceeded any other industry in their lobbying dollars and campaign spending. And while money isn’t always power, it’s difficult to ignore the absurd levels of spending from Flynn’s Oil and Gas Association members.
“By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions. That’s more than a third of the total of $521,164 in political donations listed in all the new reports,” Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
It’s worth pointing out that Terrell later updated that story in his weekly column titled “So much money, it’s difficult to keep track.” Terrell discloses that the specific way New Mexico requires lobbyists to report the expenses allows for individual lobbyists to file separately from the companies who they represent, but that often BOTH entities pour thousands of dollars into PACs, political campaigns, and other lobbying activities.
But besides the money, how else is Flynn achieving his goal of pulling the strings of government in favor of oil and gas? His close and personal relationship with those in power probably has something to do with it. Flynn noted in his speech to the NMOGA membership last year that “Susana Martinez, my former boss, she’s embraced an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy. Probably the most consistent benefit to our industry over the last 7 years is that we don’t have to worry when we walk into each legislative session about a harmful piece of legislation getting signed into law.”
He’s not kidding. Martinez was able to get into office and be reelected after receiving nearly $1 million in donations from oil and gas related donors. Her administration has gone out of their way to pay back those relationships, going so far as to literally fake oil well inspections at one point. 85 of those wells, when they were inspected, failed those inspections and should not have been approved. The state’s Environment Department probably should have had more control over those issues but as Secretary of Environment, one has to wonder what Ryan Flynn’s goals really were.
Flynn flaunting his relationship to Martinez highlights the problem of revolving door politics in New Mexico, but even more recent news sheds light on how Flynn’s relationships go higher up the ladder of power; all the way to the federal government.
This week, the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times reported that the Trump administration thought they’d convinced Flynn to become chief of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest offices. However, Flynn apparently said no to the job.
The Trump administration is struggling to fill that role which is based in San Francisco because apparently “The passion of the scientists, enforcement officers and others who work in California, he said, has made it “nearly impossible for Trump to recruit” someone “to stand in front of the 900 EPA professionals in Region 9 and lead them and the agency over the precipice. It would be a fool’s errand,” said Jared Blumenfeld, who ran that office during the Obama administration.
The story about Flynn rejecting the federal job talks a lot about Flynn himself, about why he was desired to fill the role of Trump and Scott Pruitt’s vision of the EPA. He’s described there as, “an oil and gas enthusiast who, during his tenure running New Mexico’s state environmental agency, cut deals with an industry that enraged local environmentalists.”
Next week we’ll bring you some details about what Flynn has done during his time at the helm of NMOGA to rebrand their organization and to further build power in New Mexico.