News is breaking today that Governor Susana Martinez is leading the charge to make it EASIER for oil and gas companies to extract resources from federal lands inside New Mexico (as well as other western states with large federal inholdings). This is in direct opposition to the will of most New Mexicans who OVERWHELMINGLY support safer and greater regulations on oil and gas extraction in the state.
An article in the industry report Energywire reports that Martinez sent a letter to the feds encouraging them to do away with several regulations and safeguards for extraction of oil and gas on federal public lands.
Six governors, led by Susana Martinez of New Mexico (R), sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke earlier this year asking for four policy changes aimed at speeding up energy production on the vast federal estate. The governors’ letter, sent in January but made public yesterday, also included detailed proposals for how Interior could implement the streamlining plans.
This, of course, isn’t that surprising given that in recent weeks we’ve also seen Martinez’ Environment Department loosen regulations at the state level that allow oil and gas companies to NOT check their equipment for leaks of dangerous and costly methane, along with other weaker regulations. So before Martinez leaves office she appears to want to leave the state, both state lands and federal lands, in the hands of her biggest donors.
While the Department of Interior apparently didn’t respond to the Energywire’s request for comment, you can bet the industry folks sure did: “These are very specific proposals, and because of that, we think we have a lot of traction,” McQueen said at a meeting of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a trade group for state oil and gas regulators.
In New Mexico, we know what it’s like to have industry leaders being the ones talking out loud about how their confidence. New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Director Ryan Flynn likes boasting about becoming “the most powerful group” in the state and touting his relationship with Martinez to increase access for his industry pals.
It’s unclear what, if anything, can be done to respond to Martinez’ actions here or how to push back against federal actions relaxing regulations when it comes to oil and gas. But elections are happening now in terms of primaries, and of course, the general election is in November. #WhoWeElectMatters and the next executive branch in New Mexico could be one of the few resources we have to push back against the wasteful venting and flaring of methane in our state.