While Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked President Joe Biden to grant New Mexico a pass to his moratorium on federal oil and gas leases, two dozen lawmakers from her party expressed “strong support” for the temporary ban in a letter to the president Tuesday.

“I can’t speak for the governor, only that the legislators who signed this letter believe it was the right decision because it gives the state the space and encouragement to have a serious conversation about diversifying New Mexico’s economy,” Sen. Carrie Hamblen, who spearheaded the effort to write the letter, wrote in an email.

“We look forward to continuing that conversation with the governor and other state and federal partners,” added Hamblen, a Las Cruces Democrat who is the CEO and president of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.

The letter, which was also sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, was signed by eight state senators and 16 state representatives, all Democrats.

The letter wasn’t signed by any Democratic leaders in either chamber.

“All Democratic legislators were offered the opportunity to join the letter,” Hamblen wrote in the email. “Out of respect for my colleagues I won’t get into individual conversations I may have had with them on this. The Democratic Party is very diverse in New Mexico, and each legislator has to make their own decisions based on their principles and what’s best for their constituents. In the end, I’m proud that more than 20 of my colleagues signed this letter with me.”

In the letter, lawmakers wrote they were committed to “a deliberate and planned transition from our overdependence on fossil fuels” to fund New Mexico’s budget priorities. They highlighted various issues, from economic diversification and the cost of orphaned wells to impacts on communities of color.

“While we recognize the significant contributions the oil and gas industry has made to New Mexico, we believe that our state’s long-term fiscal health can benefit from this federal pause and review,” they wrote.

In March, the governor took a different stance.

While Lujan Grisham praised Biden’s efforts to combat climate change, she asked the president to give New Mexico credit for actions the state already is taking to reduce pollution by the industry.

“We ask that our state-level efforts to combat climate change and ensure more responsible oil and gas development be considered and that New Mexico be granted energy transition credit as you chart a path forward on climate change and oil and gas leasing in particular,” Lujan Grisham wrote in her letter.

The governor warned New Mexico could lose nearly three-quarters of $1 billion in a matter of years with just a slight reduction of oil and gas production.

Oil and natural gas development on federal lands provides New Mexico’s budget with $1.5 billion in revenue, including $734 million to public schools, $344 million to health care and human services, and $85 million to public safety, according to Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. McEntrye was citing a study conducted in partnership with the industry group and released earlier this year.

“Anyone who claims to care about New Mexico’s future or funding for public schools should stand in opposition to the leasing ban and its destructive impacts,” McEntyre wrote in an email. “Our legislators’ time is better spent figuring out ways to grow and expand our economy rather than chop away at its most successful parts.”

Larry Behrens, director of the Western states chapter of Power the Future, a nonprofit fossil fuel advocacy group, wrote in an email lawmakers who support the Biden administration’s suspension of new leases and permits for oil and natural gas production on federal lands “need to present an alternative plan” for a huge budget cut.

“Until these legislators give up their gas-powered cars and only use 100 percent wind or solar power in their own homes, this letter is nothing more than an exercise in pathetic political hypocrisy,” wrote Behrens, who previously worked for former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(17) comments

Patricia Kennedy

This whole Climate Change BS is BS. How very egocentric of those who promote this stuff. The planet will do what planets do, regardless of the ‘ants’ that build mounds on it. Worthless spiel.🙄

joe martinez

I have to believe these legislators are smart IQ-wise so it has to be ignorance that anyone would think anything we do in New Mexico can have an effect on climate. If we don't export oil, I suppose we prevent people in other states to use fossil fuels; whatever that accomplishes. Perhaps these legislators are part of the liberal community whose catechism requires green. Or it could be virtue signaling and more in the never ending search for wholesomeness and validation by some.

Paul Davis

This is about *new* leases for drilling, not about keeping existing wells etc. flowing. It's about future use of fossil fuels, not what other states or nations will use tomorrow or next month.

Also, if you think that nothing we do in NM can have any effect on climate, does that imply that you don't there's anything that can be done that will have effect on climate? Because NM is just another place, like all the other places, and presumably the effect on climate happens because bit by bit, more and more places do more and more to change what we do.

Barry Rabkin

Actually there is nothing any person or State or Country can do to stop Climate Change. The climate will continue to change regardless of any action. Humans need to adopt to the changes just as humans have done since our species emergence on the planet.

Paul Davis

This is misguided. Yes, the climate does change over time. But the magnitude of the changes during the fossil fuel era are totally out of line with anything in the last 20,000 years.

Maybe this visualization will help show this more clearly:

https://xkcd.com/1732/

Dustin Seifert

“All Democratic legislators were offered the opportunity to join the letter,” Hamblen wrote in the email. “Out of respect for my colleagues I won’t get into individual conversations I may have had with them on this. The Democratic Party is very diverse in New Mexico, and each legislator has to make their own decisions based on their principles and what’s best for their constituents. In the end, I’m proud that more than 20 of my colleagues signed this letter with me.”

A truly unifying message. Actively seek alternatives, sure. A move against the self-interests of all New Mexicans? Demonstrably self-destructive.

Perhaps the signatories should visit Eddy, Lea, and San Juan counties where many exceptional NM citizens reside? Further evidentiary proof of blackmail, bullying, and bribery within our state legislature.

mark Coble

"Oil and natural gas development on federal lands provides New Mexico’s budget with $1.5 billion in revenue, including $734 million to public schools, $344 million to health care and human services, and $85 million to public safety, according to Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association".

We can easily make up this coming short fall by raising taxes at least until the green new deal kicks in and everyone has a great green job in alternative energy. Also we could mandate a public "emergency" saying we must stop driving our own vehicles, for the good of the environment. Am I kidding? Hard to tell.

Matthew Rawlings

NM is a oil and gas producing state and has some of the richest deposits in the world. Not to mention this industry provides very high paying jobs and all of the benefits that come with it. The climate change warriors can't have that. Why?

Paul Davis

It would appear that you do not agree that the production of CO2 caused by combusting oil is having a massive impact on global climate. If you did, I can't imagine that you'd be in favor of continuing to do this. I think it's probably a bit hyperbolic to regard CO2 as a poison, but in some metaphorical sense it's a useful comparison. Presumably you wouldn't be wildy in favor of NM continuing to produce lots of, oh, I don't know, cyanide?

Sure, oil moves stuff around right now, heats some people's homes, makes a bit of electricity. Is that enough of a counterpoint to the issues with CO2 to justify continued enthusiam for this industry and fuel source?

Barry Rabkin

Oil moves hundreds of millions of vehicles and tens of millions of homes… more than ‘some.’ And yes, ensuring that every home, business, hospital, and grocery stores have the energy they need on a continuous basis is worth genetically CO2.

Khal Spencer

How about a full list of signatories, New Mexican?

PHILIP V.

"Elections have Consequences" hopefully voters in NM will wake up. Do you miss him yet? You will!

Barry Rabkin

Perhaps a 10 or 20 year pause? After whichever period is chosen, perhaps a bill to extend the pause another 10 years? At that point, NM will be so deep in poverty the State will be used to horrendous living conditions and the rest of the US will have continued to need and use oil products for homes, businesses, grocery stores, vehicles, hospitals, entertainment venues, and everything else that needs oil to keep the lights on and equipment functioning. But at least NM will be STUDYING the oil leasing issue. We will have that in our favor.

Paul Davis

> homes, businesses, grocery stores, vehicles, hospitals, entertainment venues, and everything else that needs oil to keep the lights

This is a particularly bad choice of examples of why we need to continue betting on oil. Of the things you've mentioned, all but 1 (vehicles) are or can be vastly more reliant on electricity than they are on oil. Even vehicles will be changing more and more over the next 10 years.

Betting our states economy on a product that has screwed up the atmosphere and the climate just because that's how things are seems crazy to me.

This state has some of the most insolated spots in the USA. We should be building solar PV like there's no tomorrow, pushing for improvements to the national grid, and generally participating in the shape of the future rather than the grave of the past.

Barry Rabkin

Electric vehicles are a tiny number of the 280 million vehicles on US highways, roads, and streets. In 10 years, EVs will remain a tiny % of all US vehicles.

Richard Reinders

One of the poorest states will be driven deeper into poverty with $5-6 dollar fuel, and higher taxes to compensate for lack of revenue. Until we have a real alternative not just feel good talk , oil will be around for many more years. We need solid leadership that isn't trying to look good for Washington, and focus on NM.

Paul Davis

Why would fuel prices go to $5-6 based on supply? There's no oil supply shortage, and there almost certainly will not be before most sane forecasts put EV's well within the price of most car buyers. Increasing taxes to compensate for lower oil sales is a political choice, not a predestined one. A sane choice would be to start switching road/vehicle taxes away from a fuel-based metric and towards a distance/load/wear metric instead.

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