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. He also demonized grassroots organizations that have fought for stricter regulations and fought for clean energy throughout the state.
- We learned that Flynn had been tapped by President Trump to head up the California branch of the Environmental Protection Agency, a move that has chilling prospects based on Flynn’s close ties to the extraction industry that the EPA is charged with helping regulate. He declined the job, but it is very compelling that someone so highly esteemed by the Trump administration is pulling the strings of New Mexico’s most powerful lobby.
- Flynn, NMOGA, and the individual companies that make up the state’s oil and gas powerhouse lobby often make claims about what they contribute to the state in terms of dollar amounts. But they routinely ignore their impact on our environment through, for instance, the wasted methane that is vented or flared in oil production and capturing natural gas. We revealed that the dollar amount of wasted methane alone could help fund early childhood education and the methane itself could easily power every home in New Mexico if the industry took steps to capture the lost product.
- NMOGA’s claims that their industry helps New Mexico clearly overlooks some of the very real consequences and damages that the extraction industry has done, AND they’re constantly fighting for less regulation to go even further. Under their guidance, the state has seen pipeline bursts that caused widespread evacuations, pushing for rules to be changed to be able to build closer to schools and homes, and a giant cloud of methane that hovers over the Four Corners region and all of the associated health risks associated with that.
Now we wrap up this series by looking at what kind of monetary power NMOGA brought to this year’s legislative session, an indicator of the kind of power and control they have already with a clear vision of what policy we know they want to see in New Mexico.
This year’s 30-day Legislative session has largely been touted as one of bipartisanship as lawmakers sent a budget and crime omnibus bill to lame duck Governor Susanna Martinez to sign during her last official session. All things considered, even for a short session, not a lot really came out of the Roundhouse this year.
But members of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association didn’t seem to notice the slow down much at all, at least according to the efforts they put into wining and dining legislators over the month in pursuit of their legislative aims.
The oil and gas group spent almost $12,000 more than in 2017. Robert Mcintyre, communications director for NMOGA, told New Mexico In Depth that the dinner held on Jan. 31 was a “new event for 2018.”
He said it was an open, bipartisan dinner to “show appreciation to legislators.”
“The idea was to create a relaxed atmosphere, not necessarily a business atmosphere, but to create an atmosphere … to really show legislators appreciation,” Mcintyre said.
Nearly $30,000 for a single dinner seems pretty absurd until you stop and consider that, as we reported in our second article about NMOGA, records show that Chevron alone has donated $183,250 in the state, $77,000 of which has gone to Oil and Gas friendly PACs in the state.
Now that’s absurd.
We don’t even know the full extent of what kind of money groups like NMOGA spent this year either as New Mexico laws allow lobbyists to file expenditures less than $500 at a later date. We’ll be keeping an eye on those spending reports as they become available.
One piece of legislation that did come out of this year’s session MAY make some change in the way lobbyists have skirted reporting laws in the past. Besides the different reporting times for expenditures under $500, lobbyists have heretofore not been required to report individual expenditures less than $100. That means if groups like NMOGA wanted to spend $99 on a lunch with a specific legislator, they didn’t have to report it. Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto’s SB 67 aims to do away with that loophole.
SB 67 actually made it out of the Roundhouse this year and is awaiting a signature from Martinez to be put into effect.
Ryan Flynn, the Executive Director for NMOGA and almost Trump EPA appointee, stated in his annual member’s meeting speech last year that he aims to make his organization the “most powerful” and based around his spending numbers from just this past month, it’s clear he means what he says.
Now that the legislature has adjourned the focus will be on where NMOGA and other pro-extraction industry PACs spend money on the campaign side of things leading up to primary elections in June and the general election in November.
ProgressNowNM will be watching and reporting as the campaign reporting becomes available.