Last week, Gov. Lujan Grisham led New Mexico to achieve an ambitious goal by passing nation-leading rules regarding ozone precursors being emitted by the oil and gas industry. This, along with other key administrative and legislative policy over the last few years create world class protections for New Mexico communities from direct emissions of methane and other greenhouse gasses. This is the culmination of many years of hard work from community leaders, environmental groups, and forward thinking elected officials across the state. It cannot be overstated how important these rules are for the near term effect of dangerous leaks and emissions on front line communities as well as the long term effect on New Mexico’s net impact on global climate change.
However, in this moment of celebration, we need to be the fly in the ointment and remind folks that the oil and gas industry STILL has its fingerprints all over state politics and policy making, and as we move into another election season, it bears repeating just how much that should concern you.
The latest filings from candidates show oil and gas contributions to GOP candidates were wide ranging, but large all around. Members of the Yates family (big time oil family who sold their “little” family oil company for $2.5 BILLION in 2016) have donated over $50,000 to Rebecca Dow’s campaign so far. Meanwhile, Mark Ronchetti has racked up almost $200,000 from oil and gas companies like Brewer and the Chase family.
Maybe that explains why Ronchetti recently told a national publication that state Democrats are hypocritical for seeking to tighten regulations on methane pollution, since they rely on the royalties to pay the bills?
“You are seeing a rulemaking process from this governor where she constantly tries to make it more expensive and more difficult for the oil and gas industry,” Ronchetti said.
As Bob Dylan said, you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.
Remember, these are just the direct contributions to campaigns and don’t encompass what these families and businesses can and will contribute to PACs or the party after the primaries.
We know fossil fuel companies are important to New Mexico’s economy AS IT CURRENTLY EXISTS. They employ a lot of people directly and indirectly. No one argues against that. But despite the recent recovery, it wasn’t so long ago that we were in dire straits yet again when the industry crashed during the pandemic. Market volatility with the war in Ukraine is hurting average New Mexicans even as the CEOs who own these Billion-dollar companies saw their profits rise 33% last quarter. It’s simply not sustainable.
Today New Mexico is celebrating as we lead the way on regulating some very important parts of the oil and gas industry that have needed such oversight for years. But it took us a long time specifically because of the political battles fought along the way. While we know the money and industry aren’t going anywhere overnight, we must continue to look forward to opening new doors for New Mexico’s future and the leaders who are most likely to help us open those doors.