Every Republican in the New Mexico legislature signed a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday raising alarm over the White House’s pause on and review of oil and gas leases on federal lands, which threatens to wreak economic havoc on the state.
“We cannot devastate our economy and our livelihoods by supporting a federal regulatory scheme that fails to recognize the importance of our state’s oil and gas industry,” lawmakers wrote, since 40 percent of the state budget comes from oil and gas production on federal land. Much of that revenue goes to fund the state’s schools, already ranked among the lowest in the country.
The letter from New Mexico’s 39 Republican legislators was written in response to another from 24 statehouse Democrats who lauded the president’s leasing pause on Tuesday, contradicting their own progressive Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who in March sought a waiver to the pause by the Interior Department.
Republicans wrote that Democrats offered no viable alternative to replacing the state’s reliance on its oil and gas reserves found primarily in the Permian Basin, one of the nation’s richest oil fields which crosses the border of southeast New Mexico and west Texas, in search of a “green energy economy.” Such a transition, Republicans said, “will take decades and there is simply no way to guarantee these desired new energy jobs will ever become reality.”
Republicans added that while the state’s employment services agency estimates 8,500 jobs will be available in the wind and solar industry over the course of the transition, that number “pales in comparison” to the estimated 134,000 jobs that would be lost in the state’s oil industry.
The competing letters underscore the divisions in the state. Progressives dominating the government in Santa Fe are aligned with the Biden energy agenda while Republicans in the minority raise issues with the decimation of the industry funding the state services run by Democrats.
The White House pause on new federal land leases for oil and gas drilling, enacted as one of the new president’s first executive orders, has already sent producers looking across the border to Texas where less than 2 percent of the land is owned and managed by federal bureaucrats in contrast to a third in New Mexico.
Larry Behrens, the western states’ director for the energy nonprofit Power the Future, told The Federalist in a statement that New Mexico gas prices are up 50 percent as state Democrats manipulate the market to inject Biden’s energy agenda, which seeks to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar power.
“In contrast,” Behrens said of the state’s Republicans, “these New Mexico leaders are teaching Mr. Biden a lesson in how to stand up for working families and against radical special interests. The only question is: is Joe Biden smart enough to learn it?”