New Mexico Republicans request state be exempt from oil, gas lease moratorium

·2 min read

Jun. 11—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.