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Oil and gas lobbyists are painting a picture that’s too rosy

Numerous pump jacks operate in December in the oil fields of Loco Hills, between Artesia and Hobbs. (Albuquerque Journal)

Numerous pump jacks operate in December in the oil fields of Loco Hills, between Artesia and Hobbs. (Albuquerque Journal)

In crafting legislation and policy positions to benefit all New Mexicans, we depend upon industry lobbyists to provide honest and useful information about the industries they represent. For decades, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) has been a leader among trade associations in our state, earning a solid reputation from both sides of the aisle for helping us understand the intricacies of the challenges and opportunities in the industry. Over the years, its advocacy has helped to deliver record-breaking revenue for New Mexico that goes directly to funding our public schools and infrastructure while at the same time achieving the right balance of regulation in order to protect the environment and grow our economy.

However, under Executive Director Ryan Flynn, NMOGA has devolved into a highly charged political organization that seems more interested in creating political power for a handful of the wealthiest players in the industry at the expense of the front-line workers and locally owned firms who have fueled New Mexico’s economy. Specifically, Flynn has recently been making false statements about the status of the industry and distorting the policy positions and actual votes on key legislation by our elected officials that impacts the industry’s future in New Mexico. This disingenuous behavior hurts our working relationship and cannot be tolerated.

First, Flynn has been painting a very rosy picture about the projected recovery of the oil and gas industry in our state. While we all want to believe that global oil production will quickly rebound to pre-pandemic levels, thus positively affecting New Mexico’s current fiscal condition, Flynn’s statements contradict reality. Meanwhile, New Mexico’s Republican legislators have been tirelessly fighting for greater fiscal responsibility to avoid the state having to dig into our reserves. Flynn’s false portrayal of the industry plays right into the hands of Democrats who want to keep spending as if nothing catastrophic has happened.

Secondly, and more egregious, Flynn has taken NMOGA into a place where it does not belong – the race for the 2nd Congressional District between Democrat incumbent Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and Republican challenger former State Representative Yvette Herrell.

In response to Herrell’s recent announcement that former Congressman Harry Teague, a lifelong Democrat and oilman from Hobbs, has endorsed her for Congress, Flynn immediately put out a statement from NMOGA praising Torres Small, saying she “has stood up to those in her party who want to completely ban fracking.”

In fact, Torres Small did the exact opposite, when just this past February, she joined with the radicals in Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and voted for a fracking ban. Not only does Flynn’s statement embarrass NMOGA, its timing uncovers Flynn’s premeditated poor decision to use the association as a political weapon. Getting NMOGA involved in this race is not only unethical, but also potentially illegal and risks permanent damage to the association’s reputation.

Flynn should be well aware of Torres Small’s anti-fracking position because one week after her vote, Claire Chase, a past chair of NMOGA, who lost to Herrell for the GOP nomination, sent a campaign fundraising email titled “Xochitl Sold Us Out,” which admonished her for voting “to give future presidents the power to ban fracking unilaterally and bankrupt our state.” Incidentally, Chase has since endorsed Herrell and donated to her campaign.

So, what is Flynn’s motive? We aren’t exactly sure, but this pattern of lies has effectively destroyed any trust we had in him to be a fair advocate for NMOGA. While we cannot dictate to NMOGA who should be running its organization, we would suggest the association consider putting a person in its leadership who does not spread misinformation and puts personal political preferences ahead of the interests of the oil and gas industry and the workers it supports.

NMOGA can repair its reputation as a reliable arbiter of factual information, but the choice is up to its board.

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