With less than a week to go until the 2019 Legislative session there’s already been a lot of exciting movement from New Mexico’s new (mostly) progressive majority at the state level. Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard made a big splash today with an Executive Order banning wildlife killing contests on state lands. That’s pretty great news! But Garcia Richard made
another announcement this week that we’re excited about as well: A
planned bill to increase the cap on royalties paid from oil and gas companies
from wells on state lands from 20 percent to 25 percent. What does that mean?
Today ProgressNow New Mexico joined with almost 30 (29!) New Mexico organizations in congratulating Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham in a full-page ad in the Santa Fe New Mexican and in thanking her for her commitment to fighting methane waste in the state through comprehensive statewide rules. As noted in the ad, New Mexico oil and gas producers waste as much as $240 MILLION EVERY YEAR in natural gas (mostly made up of methane) that is either leaked or purposely flared or vented during production. That’s enough natural gas to heat EVERY home in New Mexico for a year. But, besides the actual loss of our valuable resources, that waste is also hurting our families in the state in more ways than one:
Wasted methane means wasted money- All that natural gas that producers aren’t capturing or are purposefully burning is costing the tax-payers of New Mexico over $27 MILLION every year in lost royalties. The oil and gas lobby loves to talk about how much they contribute back to the state, so why are they sending literal millions of dollar up in smoke every year?
This is the third in a series focusing on the long-term economic and social issues facing Farmington, New Mexico, and surrounding areas. As a region that has rich and diverse opportunities but generally relies on extractive industries economically, the whole area is facing uncertainty as the coal-burning San Juan Coal Generating Station closes its doors and oil jobs are moving to the southeast part of the state to capitalize on the Permian boom happening right now. In today’s piece, we’ll be looking at complementary legislation that needs to be implemented in the state to ensure areas like Farmington can continue to thrive well into the future. Last week we looked specifically at how securitization could help PNM recoup its costs as it transitions from coal-generated power to renewable sources, while also helping the Four Corners area transition to a new and more diverse economy. The second part of that prospect though is ensuring that utilities like PNM actually DO get their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by legislating what is known as a “Renewable Portfolio Standard,” which spells out exactly how much energy must be derived from renewable sources and by when. A quick aside here on language for this piece: Renewable energy in the broad sense is energy created from clean sources like solar or wind as opposed to energy from fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, or oil.
This is the second in a series focusing on the long-term economic and social issues facing Farmington, New Mexico, and surrounding areas. As a region that has rich and diverse opportunities but generally relies on extractive industries economically, the whole area is facing uncertainty as the coal-burning San Juan Coal Generating Station closes its doors and oil jobs are moving to the southeast part of the state to capitalize on the Permian boom happening right now. Last week we looked at how Farmington and surrounding areas are facing real-time issues when it comes to their future. The San Juan Generating Plant is scheduled to close in just the next few years, which will likely mean a loss of jobs for many workers there. That, of course, will impact the economy of the whole region.
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.
This is the first in a series focusing on the long-term economic and social issues facing Farmington New Mexico and surrounding areas. As a region that has rich and diverse opportunities but generally relies on extractive industries economically, the whole area is facing uncertainty as the coal-burning San Juan Coal Generating Station closes its doors and oil jobs are moving to the southeast part of the state to capitalize on the Permian boom happening right now. Farmington has always been a crossroads of sorts, situated uniquely at the confluence of three rivers and in modern times, highways and railroads. But as we move into the third decade of the twenty-first century, Farmington and other cities in the tri-county area of northwest New Mexico will be facing major changes as coal is phased out. No matter what the Trump administration says, or any campaign stumps from politicians like Steve Pearce promise, coal has seen its heyday and it’s never going to be a reliable commodity to build an industry on again.
With the humanitarian crises on the border dominating headlines the past few weeks and this week’s massive Supreme Court news, it’s easy to forget there are still other matters being decided in the halls of Congress that affect Americans everyday lives. Congressman Steve Pearce is pushing through two bills RIGHT NOW that would do away with important management and oversight of the Bureau of Land Management when it comes to issuing permits for drilling oil wells on public lands.
Pearce, himself a millionaire oilman, of course, claims this is about “cutting red tape” but considering he’s running for governor this year it sure seems like he’s trying to do his buddies in the Permian Basin a huge favor while he’s still on Capitol Hill. But even as governor Pearce could still make it easier for oil and gas companies at the expense of our public lands, our environment, and even if practical policies that would actually net oil and gas companies more revenue like fixing the Methane Rule.
Just look at Governor Susana Martinez’ role with oil and gas over the last eight years. And in the midst of everything that is happening, Martinez not only wrote a letter earlier in the year that encouraged the feds to support the undoing of the permitting process but actually traveled to Washington DC earlier this month and testified IN SUPPORT of Pearce’s bills.
Well, we’re not going to let Pearce’s or Martinez’ attempts to undermine our public lands and our natural resources without saying something. That’s why we’ve launched these digital ads to help spread awareness of what’s happening.
This is an updated version of a story originally published last week
Late today, (Wednesday, May 30), ProgressNow New Mexico received information that the proposed case had been removed from the Oil Conservation Division docket altogether after pressure from the public (including this original story from PNNM), further inquiries from other press sources, and an apparent inquiry from Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office. While a spokesperson for the AG’s office wouldn’t confirm that the item was no longer being considered, they did comment that the office was looking into the issue. “The Office of the Attorney General is monitoring this issue and will always take appropriate action to ensure that government agencies and processes are transparent and open to the public,” said James Hallinan, Communications Director for the AG’s office.
ProgressNow New Mexico was provided with an email exchange between the attorney for the OCD and Hilcorp’s attorney’s showing that after the case was slated to be moved until Friday (likely due to the expected turnout), Hilcorp informs OCD’s lawyer that “Hilcorp is withdrawing its application in Case No. 16193. Accordingly, there is no need to hear argument on a continuance or interventions on Friday morning.”
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.
Once again Governor Martinez and her administration are prioritizing their big oil and gas donors’ interests while putting New Mexicans at risk from increased methane pollution. Last week, the New Mexico Environment Department approved permits that do NOT require oil and gas wells to check for leaks of methane or other pollutants. This once again places New Mexico on the bottom of a an important list as these new rules, or really lack of any rules, are among the weakest environmental protections in the nation. Oh, and remember how leaked methane wastes taxpayers’ money to the tune of $244 MILLION every year?
So what do the new permits and “regulations” do? Well, not much in terms of regulating anything. Of course, that’s just what groups like the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association spend so much money on every year lobbying in Santa Fe for.