The oil and gas boom is already costing taxpayers unhidden costs, but ultimately climate change, renewables and any number of other issues will spell the end of the fossil fuel era in our children's lifetime. However, right now hard attention needs to be paid to the lack of any concerted effort at auditing the oil and gas industry to make sure it pays what it owes.
It is no secret that under the Martinez administration, the auditing procedures that were put in place by former governors, land commissioners and Tax and Revenue Department public servants has dissolved. Billions of dollars are being made; millions of barrels of oil are being pumped; and there is little being done to make sure all the numbers are adding up. The enormous amount of revenues going unaudited will certainly add up to tens of millions of dollars lost to the Permanent Fund for education.
Oil and gas industry representatives say they pay for everything in New Mexico. That is an overstatement. Much of what they send in revenues are payments they owe pursuant to leases for oil and gas that are owned by the federal and state government. Are they paying everything they legally owe? Nobody knows.
My experience as state land commissioner and director of the federal Bureau of Land Management has led me to believe that, without a robust and professional audit system in place, any real or imagined ambiguity in lease provisions, statutes or regulations will be interpreted by the industry in a manner that benefits only them, at a loss to New Mexico and its taxpayers. Therefore, I would advise the governor, state auditor and state land commissioner to hire outside professional oil and gas auditors and give them a share of the recovered unpaid revenue as payment. It shouldn't be that difficult. There is a lot of work to do.