I saw these three words on a little sticker affixed, discordantly, to the window of a car in a small Colorado town. It struck me as funny at first: Coal and guns being elevated to the status of platonic ideals or, even more loftily, the refrain of a bad country song. All it was missing was Jesus, beer and Wrangler butts. A few days later, though, as I sat on a desert promontory overlooking northwestern New Mexico, the sticker didn’t seem so funny. As the sunrise spilled across sagebrush plains and irrigated cornfields, it also illuminated a narrow band of yellow-brown clouds on the horizon.
Thanks to Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes of the higher education and legislative budgets, hostilities between the governor’s office and legislators over taxes and next year’s budget are playing out statewide, and daily in the headlines. Soon, the two parties will be facing off in the New Mexico Supreme Court over those two line-item budget vetoes. On the surface, the battle is over the budget. It also raises deeper questions about power and control: Can one person and a handful of executive office staffers and advisers wield ultimate power over the 112 legislators elected from communities across the state? But beneath the layers of campaigns, elections and public debates, there are also powerful people, companies and industries at work behind the scenes.
FARMINGTON, N.M. – The amount of royalties coal companies pay for mining on public lands amounts to taxpayers in New Mexico and across the country getting ripped off, according to a Sierra Club official. Robert Tohe, the Sierra Club’s organizing representative for its Dirty Fuels campaign, plans to testify today at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hearing in Farmington that seeks public comment on reforming the government’s coal leasing system. Tohe is a member of the Navajo Nation, where coal mining is a big part of the local economy. “These royalty rates are so low and haven’t changed in the past, and so now is the opportunity to revise this so that taxpayers get their fair share of these profits,” he states. Tohe points to a report from Headwaters Economics that shows that between 2008 and 2012, coal companies mined $913 million worth of coal on public lands in New Mexico and paid $46 million in royalties.