NM needs a waiver from and federal ban on drilling

The citizens of New Mexico, as well as constituents across the nation, look to their elected officials for deliberate and pragmatic leadership in normal times. But in these unique times dictated by a global pandemic, Americans find themselves peering toward their state capitols with a renewed sense of anxiety.

Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, is the outgoing state senator from northern New Mexico’s District 5. He’s held the seat since 2001, but lost his reelection bid this year.

Will interpretations of the CARES Act release much-needed funds for everyday services? Are governors doing all they can to hold D.C. accountable for its role in rebuilding the economy?

Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham has, and she did it prior to nationwide public health orders and subsequent shutdowns.

Understanding the vital role of oil and gas production in New Mexico, Gov. Lujan Grisham stated last year she would petition a Democrat administration in Washington to approve a waiver for New Mexico from any drilling ban, according to a Nov. 1, 2019, Reuters article.

The governor is acutely aware that any effort to prioritize New Mexico’s public education system requires a collaborative approach to an industry that produces two-thirds of our state’s natural gas from federal land. It is absolutely in her power and conscience to protect such sites as Chaco Canyon and I applaud those efforts. However, I also commend her statement about a waiver from any drilling ban as an affirmation that natural gas production enjoys bipartisan consideration.

President Barack Obama, President-elect Biden’s former boss, increased natural gas production on federal lands by 40%. The Obama administration understood the need for natural gas. Perhaps that was because Obama understood the unfortunate reality that when traveling north in my district on U.S. 84-285 toward Chama, you arrive in communities with no access to natural gas.

My constituents in those communities are forced to heat and cook their homes with wood and/or propane. There are approximately three school districts in my district that are also forced to use propane only. School districts in northern New Mexico are struggling financially and access to natural gas could mitigate crippling operational costs during the winter season.

With the assistance of Gov. Lujan Grisham, I was able to work with the New Mexico Gas Co. on running a natural gas line from Chama to the Tierra Amarilla schools at a cost of $5 million, with the state of New Mexico and the gas company splitting the cost. I thank Gov. Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Gas Co. for this accomplishment.

I hope that our governor now considers her commitment to allow oil and gas drilling on state and federal land. (Biden, meanwhile, has pledged to ban “new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.”)

The ability to balance the critical protections of every New Mexican and the environment they will pass on to future generations with the promotion of a healthy oil and gas industry manifested itself in the governor’s navigation of the Energy Transition Act.

The ETA sets in place carbon-free benchmarks within our energy sectors by 2045. The ETA has a provision that provides economic subsidies to such affected areas as San Juan County, which, directed by statute, will have its coal-powered generation plant shuttered.

The lion’s share of New Mexico’s general fund revenue comes oil and gas. The lion’s share of the state-funded subsidies for San Juan County will come from the same source.

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