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Governor gets GOP praise for stance on federal moratorium on new oil and gas drilling permits

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico Republicans have kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for much of the last year.

But U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., and state Senate Republicans both sent Friday letters lauding the governor’s recent comments about President Joe Biden’s executive order to pause new oil and gas leasing on public lands.

While the Lujan Grisham administration has not formally asked the U.S. Department of Interior for a waiver from the order, the Democratic governor told business leaders this week she was “clearly concerned” about the Biden administration’s decision.

She also suggested New Mexico’s efforts to tackle climate change, including measures aimed at curbing carbon emissions, should be recognized by the federal government.

Specifically, New Mexico could get an exemption from the federal order under a program giving “credit” to states that show progress on environmental protections, Lujan Grisham suggested.

Given that backdrop, New Mexico Senate Republicans pointed out GOP-backed legislation to officially request a waiver has stalled at the Roundhouse during this year’s 60-day legislative session.

“Given the large number of anti-oil and gas bills introduced by Senate and House Democrats this legislative session, your recent statements could not have come at a more critical time,” they wrote in the Friday letter that was signed by all 15 GOP senators.

For her part, Herrell said she was “pleased” the governor has recognized the potentially damaging effects of the federal order, as New Mexico currently gets more than 40% of its total revenue from taxes and royalties on the oil and natural gas industries.

Herrell also asked Lujan Grisham to urge New Mexico’s two U.S. senators – Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján – to file legislation in the U.S. Senate to exempt the state from the federal order, just as she has done in the U.S. House.

Biden issued the executive order to indefinitely pause all new leasing activity on federal lands just days after taking office in January.

The pause on new lease sales, aimed at giving the federal government time to review permitting and leasing procedures, does not affect oil and gas drilling under valid existing leases in New Mexico and other states, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

Top Governor’s Office staffers and state environment officials had a telephone discussion about the federal order with Interior Department staffers this week.

That came after state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said in a February letter that uncertainty caused by the order has already caused oil rigs to leave New Mexico for Texas, where federal land is more sparse.

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