Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told an energy conference Tuesday that her administration aims to work with oil and gas on key issues, a message that appeared to delight industry representatives.
The governor assured a crowd of energy executives, lawmakers and others at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s annual conference that state departments overseeing energy and the environment “will not be at cross-purposes” with the industry on issues such as methane emissions and produced water.
“They are very clear that they work for you, that this is a state that has an all-of-the-above energy investment, that we will solve problems together,” Lujan Grisham said. “And if that’s not occurring, I need to know about it, because that’s the expectation I have.”
The speech to hundreds of people in the Eldorado Hotel’s main ballroom came as Lujan Grisham has charged two state departments with developing a regulatory framework to reduce methane emissions by the oil and gas sector as part of a state goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The administration has created the Methane Advisory Panel, which includes members of the energy industry and local and national nonprofit organizations, and has held public meetings over the summer to gather community input.
Oil and gas company representatives said after the speech they were pleased with the governor’s efforts to work with the industry, with one saying there was more synergy between the state and the industry than ever before under a Democratic Legislature and executive branch.
The governor received a standing ovation from the crowd, which included industry members visiting from Southern New Mexico, Texas and other states. It was a more enthusiastic response than the reception she received at an energy summit in Carlsbad last month.
Lujan Grisham also spoke at length about the state’s increased spending on education and acknowledged that it was revenue from the oil and gas industry that has allowed the state to ramp up that investment.
“It’s incredible — opportunities that we haven’t seen ever in the state of New Mexico,” the governor said. “How we got there is we agreed to collaborate in ways that in most states people don’t believe people can do anymore.”
After Lujan Grisham’s speech, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt addressed the audience, blasting the Green New Deal — proposed legislation that would aim to address climate change. He said any effort to protect the environment must not hurt economic growth.
“Policies like the Green New Deal threaten your livelihood and the economic progress that we’ve sustained,” Bernhardt said. The president “has said flat out we will defend the environment but we will also defend American sovereignty, American prosperity and we will defend American jobs.”
Several protesters also were at the Eldorado Hotel before the governor spoke Tuesday morning, calling for action on climate change.
Lujan Grisham noted in her speech that the oil and gas industry was working with the state to draft new regulations on methane.
“I have no doubt that New Mexico will get methane regulations right,” she told a room that included representatives of some of the largest oil companies operating in the state. “Why? Because you’re at the table.”
Oil production in New Mexico has doubled over the past two years and nearly quadrupled since 2010, allowing state revenue to hit unprecedented levels. Projections show the state will receive an estimated $907 million in “new” money next budget year, with revenue projected at just under $8 billion.
New Mexico is the third-largest oil producing state in the country, after Texas and North Dakota, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Without the oil and gas industry, without the energy effort in this state, no one gets to make education the top priority moving forward,” Lujan Grisham said.
On Monday, conference attendees heard from Occidental Petroleum President and CEO Vicki Hollub, New Mexico State Investment Officer Steven Moise and State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard. There also was a panel with the mayors of Hobbs, Artesia and Farmington as well as a commissioner from Eddy County.