Listening to the governor’s State of the State speech Tuesday, it might have escaped many viewers that she is the chief executive of the third-largest oil-producing state in the nation. And that the Biden administration a week earlier had announced a 60-day pause on new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on federal lands, sending shockwaves through the industry that funds a third of the state’s $7 billion-plus budget.
It bears noting that in New Mexico, about half of oil production occurs on federal land.
The governor mentioned oil and gas only once in the annual speech, and unfortunately it wasn’t to play up New Mexico’s contribution to American energy independence, the American-led shale oil revolution that has unleashed previously untapped reserves or the 42,000 oil and gas workers in New Mexico.
Instead, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced “and this year we will enact the country’s toughest methane and air pollutant rules in the oil and gas industry, finally cracking down on waste and pollution in a way that is not punitive but innovative, capturing harmful emissions and, in the process, creating more revenue for our state and for our schools.”
While that’s important, it had to be a letdown to the blue-collar workers in the oil patch who typically start their workdays with predawn safety meetings and don’t embark on their long drives home from drilling sites until dusk. Last year, the governor didn’t even mention the oil industry in her State of the State speech, even as the state was enjoying a budgetary windfall largely due to an oil drilling boom in southeast New Mexico.
Once again last week, the governor failed to rise in defense of one of the major job-creating private-sector industries in New Mexico – particularly as news reports swirled that the new president would announce a more wide-ranging pause on new oil and gas leases on federal lands, which the Biden administration did Wednesday as part of its battle against climate change.