Two days after 24 Democratic state legislators sent President Joe Biden a letter expressing their "strong support" for his moratorium on federal oil and gas leases, 39 Republican lawmakers penned a letter of their own Thursday to voice "a different and contrary perspective."

"It is time for us as policymakers, who represent families and business people across our great state, to stand up and provide a reality-based response to the political posturing and grandstanding that was represented by this troubling letter sent by 24 of our legislative colleagues," members of the GOP wrote in their letter to Biden.

Republicans presented a unified front. The letter was signed by every Republican member in the state Senate and House of Representatives, unlike the letter from Democrats, which had the signatures of only 24 lawmakers and no leaders from either chamber.

The letter from Democrats expresses a position contrary to that of the state's chief executive, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat. The governor has asked the president to give New Mexico credit for actions the state already is taking to reduce pollution by the industry — a point raised by Republican lawmakers.

"Just as our Democratic Governor requested in March 2021, we respectfully ask that New Mexico's fossil fuel production and any associated federal permitting and leasing activities be exempt from all future regulatory moratoriums," they wrote, adding the oil and natural gas industry provides nearly $3 billion of the state's annual operating budget.

"A major recipient of these oil and natural gas revenues is our state's public education system," they wrote. "It is simply impossible, unless massive tax increases are levied on every New Mexican taxpayer, to eliminate oil and gas revenues and still finance our public schools."

Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, said in a statement a federal halt on new oil and gas leases on federal land will have a devastating impact on New Mexico's economy and cost thousands of jobs.

"Despite the claims of those who wish to permanently shutter the industry, there is no plan in place to replace this revenue or these local, well-paying jobs," she said. "We should think long and hard before jeopardizing New Mexico’s future for the sake of hollow policies that will not have any meaningful impact on the earth's climate."

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(9) comments

Laura Stokes

"It is simply impossible, unless massive tax increases are levied on every New Mexican taxpayer, to eliminate oil and gas revenues and still finance our public schools."

Of course, it is not impossible, many other states fund their public schools without O&G revenue. But it is true that, after years of depending on O&G revenue, we have not developed other sources of revenue, because we didn't have to. But now we have too. There is no inherent reason that New Mexico cannot develop new sources of revenue as have other states. Our legislature and the business community is beginning to address the problem, and the public must get behind those efforts, rather than relying on the dying, O&G industry.

Michael Smith

Evolution of automobile transportation will eventually erode dependence on oil and gas far greater than political grandstanding for or against the economics of the New Mexico fossil fuels industry. To that end, the writing is on the wall for the diminished capacity to produce oil and gas.

It's only a matter of time and the continued investment and production of renewable energy resources as well as electric vehicles that will progressively erode the market for internal combustion engines and the fuels that power today's cars and trucks as they become obsolete.

The top two U.S. domestic oil companies still have a market capitalization of over $400 billion dollars; some might call that 'real money'. So we can squabble and posture about the political influence of oil and gas money according to industry lobbyists and environmentalists if it makes us feel better. The reality is that renewable energy is advancing globally and fossil fuels will decline as a matter of course.

Invest your time and money accordingly.

Jeff clark

I’ll pay more to get away from our dependence on fossil fuel income. The fact is that the hold on NEW leases will not actually effect oil and gas production and therefore tax revenues for at least 5 years as there are many many as yet unexploited leases out there. Plenty of time to figure a way forward. I suggest increasing income tax’s and decreasing gross receipts tax’s income neutrally and increasing property tax’s and giving a NM resident exemption equal to the amount of increase in property tax. Do away with the 50% reduction in NM state tax on capital gains. NM’s current tax structure is very unprogressive. Working folks pay a higher effective tax rate than coupon clippers.

John Cook

I thought the Republican party was supposed to be the conserver of the old ways and values. Yet, in their letter they say: "....be exempt from all future regulatory moratoriums...."

Only in this decaying and slipshod day would one not say: 'moritoria'. For shame.

Charles W Rodriguez

Isn't it so very consistent with short-sighted republican strategies to slam ANY attempt to protect the environment. Or any common sense action by a Democratic administration. An educated and enlightened political party that wants to represent the oil and gas industry would be working to establish new kinds of work for displaced oil and gas field workers, rather than taking the divisive and destructive path they have chosen. The negative effects of the fossil fuel industry on the environment aren't conjecture, it is fact. Instead of promoting an industry that is so damaging, it would be a much better representation of their voter base to find employment solutions for those displaced in a dying industry. But, that's just to productive and logical for a political party that's as destructive as the industry the purport to protect.

Joseph Tafoya

Since the oil and gas industry pays 35% of our state government's budget and approximately 48% of our school's funding, I would expect you and all your compadres to contribute more of “your dollars” in the form of taxes to cover the deficit. Additionally, I would assume that you are or already have stopped using any transportation that uses fossil fuels. I would further expect that you use solar and wind power exclusively to power your house, electronic devices, and power tools. By the way, all those electronic gadgets, power tools, and gadgets in your home are made with by-products of fossil fuels. So those have to go. Unless your growing your food consider this, all food products are grown, transported, and stored using fossil fuels. When you reach total elimination of fossil fuels maybe I would give credence to your argument. Otherwise, it's do as I say and not as I do.

Mark Stahl

The great weakness of New Mexico’s economy is its dependence on oil and gas revenue. History has shown how erratic and unreliable it is. As long as that money is there, there is little incentive to diversify the economy. In addition, the oil industry is corrupt and environmentally destructive. We’ll be cleaning up their mess long after they’ve gone the way of blacksmiths and wheelwrights. The future lies in clean, reliable, renewable and sustainable energy. The sooner our dependence/addiction to fossil fuels is eliminated, the better off we’ll be.

John Cook

You are right, Joseph Tafoya, we should be willing to do as we say. So let's make it law that we do each and every thing you suggest in your comment. That will clean up the environment to everyone's benefit and it will see that each and every one of us participates equally. Good idea on your part.

John Wilson

In the old story King Canute showed his courtiers the limits of his power by ordering the tide to not come in. He showed that there are powers beyond the command of man. So the NM GOP tries to stop the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels.

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