This week, Rep. Steve Pearce proposed toll roads as the answer to the massive amounts of traffic on Southeastern New Mexico highways due to the boom in oil production and the corresponding increase in oil traffic. The increased congestion along highway 285 outside of Lovington has given it the dubious nickname “highway of death.”
The idea is that new and improved roads be paid for by the oil and gas companies who so heavily utilize the roads.
But Congressman Pearce is fighting tooth and nail to overturn methane waste rules that ask these some companies to pay for the millions of tons of New Mexico’s natural gas they waste every year – rules that would mean millions in additional state revenue for things like these very roads. everyone would have to pay the tolls.
Residents in New Mexico’s oil patch already pay a high price because of where they live and the associated oil and gas industry impacts. Increased pollution leading to higher rates of asthma and other respiratory issues and the associated healthcare costs that accompany that. Housing shortages that drive up costs for low-income renters and impact all facets of life including being able to recruit professionals like teachers to come and live in the area. And of course, there’s the uncertainty that comes with the boom and bust cycle that the oil and gas industry has historically perpetrated on communities in southeastern NM.
Highways and emergency services that help keep those roads safe are funded in large part by taxpayers across the state. That revenue has to be divided up around many projects every year. What if instead of putting the burden of paying to travel around the state on our own roads, the oil and gas companies just paid their fair share of revenue back to the state they should be?
Every year New Mexico loses out on up to over $244 MILLION in revenue worth of natural gas not collected on lost methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. That money The revenue from that gas would specifically go toward improving our schools and infrastructure, something poll after poll shows 90% of New Mexicans fully support.
If New Mexico were able to recoup the revenue from lost methane that’d be a big step in the right direction toward our fiscal ability to serve our citizens. It’d also, of course, cut down on the emissions that harm the people in oil country, helping to ease the costs of healthcare needs there. And rather than having the ongoing discussion about how to make life more livable around outdated extractive industries moving New Mexico to clean energy like wind and solar would alleviate the problems in the long term for good.
Representative Pearce wants to keep fixing old problems with old solutions. It’s time we start thinking about new solutions in the first place.