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New Mexico legislature turns its back on oil and gas accountability

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

SANTA FE - Despite a new wave of legislators and a Governor that continues to promise action on climate, the 2021 New Mexico legislative session will close having failed to move forward a single bill that would protect public interest over oil and gas industry profit.

New Mexicans have expressed outrage over the thwarting of bills like SB 86 “Protect Our Water,” SB 149 “Pause on Fracking,” SJR 3 “Environmental Rights,” HB 9 “Climate Solutions Act” and many others that were refused a hearing or tabled by Democratic leadership in committees this session. Groups held a virtual press conference today to publicize their concerns.

Analysis and data collected by state agencies from oil and gas operators appear to be of poor quality and subject to manipulation. Questionable data is the basis for state revenue collection, and the New Mexico Environment Department and Oil Conservation Division remain woefully underfunded and chronically unable to monitor, supervise, regulate, and enforce oil and gas activities.

The oil and gas industry is New Mexico’s top emitter of climate pollution and continued oil and gas is costing New Mexico dearly, with further exploitation of the NM Permian threatening the world with a “climate bomb” rendering the state unable to meet the Governor’s climate goals. As the state suffers from increased drought and another dry winter, the oil and gas industry continues to frack with abandon, churning New Mexico’s precious fresh water into toxic and radioactive waste. Right now this waste, euphemistically called “produced water”, is leaking, spilling, and exploding daily across New Mexico contaminating land, air, and water, and people.

Despite industry posturing, oil and gas extraction is on the rise and New Mexico ranks top three in the nation for oil and gas production, yet the state continues to rank lowest in the U.S. for public education (#50), general opportunity (#49), and overall well being (#48). Fracking disproportionately impacts Tribal Nations and low-income families with more than more than 115,000 New Mexicans living within one mile of an oil and gas well and nearly 20% of New Mexican families living below the poverty line.

While the Biden Administration has made fossil fuel transition and environmental justice a priority, the stranglehold of oil and gas influence on state politics compels legislators to ignore the looming environmental and health crisis, seemingly determined to leave New Mexicans behind.

A report from NM Ethics Watch found the influence of oil and gas money in state politics dwarfed those of other industries with almost $3.3 million in direct campaign contributions to NM politicians this past election cycle, not accounting for lobbyist salaries or expenses. Greasing both sides of the aisle, the oil and gas industry gave more than $182,000 to House Speaker Brian Egolf’s PAC and $67,500 to the New Mexico Senate Democrats’ PAC in 2020 alone.

As Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham threatens to challenge federal efforts to rein in unfettered fracking on federal lands in New Mexico, groups are vowing to hold elected officials accountable to promises to protect their constituents, end sacrifice zones, and put people over oil and gas profits.


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