It isn’t often that the Republican Party pushes for the removal of an oil and gas representative. But these aren’t normal times.
Around a dozen small oil and gas producers have called for the ouster or resignation of Ryan Flynn, executive director of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association and a former Cabinet secretary for a Republican governor.
They are upset that Flynn praised U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat representing New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District who will face off against Republican candidate Yvette Herrell in the November election.
The state Republican Party piled on Friday, with Chairman Steve Pearce applauding the companies’ stance.
“The Republican Party of New Mexico stands with the leaders of our locally owned firms in the oil and gas industry who have lost confidence in Ryan Flynn for supporting progressive Democrats like Rep. Xochitl Torres Small,” Pearce said in a statement. “I commend them in calling for his resignation and I hope the NMOGA board of directors takes their concerns seriously.”
The party’s efforts did not appear to get the desired effect Friday; the oil association’s board said it still supported Flynn.
“The Board of Directors stands firmly behind Ryan Flynn and the work that NMOGA has done to advance the oil and gas industry in these challenging times,” the board said in a joint statement.
“We will continue to work with federal, state and local leaders, regardless of their political affiliation, who share our commitment to New Mexico’s economy, schools and communities,” the board added.
Flynn also has praised Herrell, a former New Mexico legislator, saying Sunday she “demonstrated a favorable record during her service in the Roundhouse.”
The brouhaha began after Flynn said earlier this month Torres Small had been an advocate for the industry and said she opposed banning fracking, the extraction process also known as hydraulic fracturing.
Soon after, Pearce wrote an op-ed published in The New Mexican accusing Flynn of using the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association “as a political weapon” and charging that involving the organization in a political race was “unethical” and “potentially illegal.”
Next came the independent oil companies, who wrote an Aug. 10 letter to the association’s chairman, Scott Kidwell, who is senior vice president of administration at Concho Resources, one of the top oil producers in New Mexico.
The companies suggested in the missive that Flynn’s praise of Torres Small was an attempt to “sabotage the candidacy and fundraising efforts of Ms. Herrell.”
The letter was not signed by any of the largest 25 oil companies in New Mexico by production. Only one of the companies that signed appears in a 2018 list of the 50 largest oil and gas producers in the state. That was Strata Production, which is the 43rd largest, according to the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.
In their letter, the companies also refuted Flynn’s statement that Torres Small opposes fracking, saying she “has in fact voted in support of legislation that would lead to a fracking ban.”
The producers did not specify which vote they were referring to in their letter, but Pearce made a similar assertion his op-ed, saying Torres Small voted for a fracking ban in February.
Torres Small has publicly opposed legislation proposing a fracking ban.
The Fracking Ban Act was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in January and was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduced a similar bill in the House in February, and it was referred to the House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce committees.
Both bills would ban all onshore and offshore fracking by 2025. Neither received a vote in its chamber. Torres Small released a statement opposing the measures.
“I have consistently spoken out against a ban on fracking, and my record backs that up,” Torres Small said Sunday. “Here in Southern New Mexico we know that if we shut down oil and gas today, we’ll have to shut down our schools tomorrow.”
The oil and gas companies’ letter also charged that Flynn and the association have supported progressive Democratic candidates for the state Legislature who defeated moderate Democrats in the primary election earlier this year. It called those moderates “valuable industry allies” and named one — Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming.
“When Mr. Flynn and NMOGA start playing politics and supporting those who are not only detrimental to our state but our livelihoods and the future of our children, we cannot and will not remain silent,” the letter stated.
Torres Small’s race against Herrell is expected to be one of the most competitive House contests in the nation.
The Democratic incumbent, whose district has long been a Republican stronghold, has come under fire for voting to impeach President Donald Trump.
Flynn was state environment secretary from 2013-16 under former Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican.