September 2, 2016

Ex-environment department secretary now in charge of oil and gas org

Margaret Wright

Oil pump in southeast New Mexico.

The former head of the New Mexico Environment Department is now the executive director of an organization that advocates for one of the industries he previously regulated.

Oil rig in southeast New Mexico. Photo by Margaret Wright

Margaret Wright

Oil rig in southeast New Mexico. Photo by Margaret Wright

Ryan Flynn will be the executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The announcement came just weeks after he left the New Mexico Environment Department.

New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, which is separate from the Environment Department, does much of the regulation for the oil and gas industry in New Mexico.

Gov. Susana Martinez banned former officials from lobbying executive agencies or the Legislature for two years after they leave.

Flynn’s predecessor at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Steve Henke, was a registered lobbyist.

Efforts to pass a lobbying “cool down” have stalled in the Legislature for years.

The move was not unexpected; rumors that Flynn would take the position were rampant in recent weeks. The Albuquerque Journal asked Flynn about his next move after he announced his resignation last month. Flynn said he was undecided.

This came after NM Politics with Joe Monahan wrote that Flynn would make the move.

An environmental group that frequently tussled with NMED in recent years was not surprised by Flynn’s new job.

“This move by Ryan Flynn confirms what his tenure as Secretary of the Environment Department suggested: Ryan Flynn is most interested in protecting oil and gas industry profits without any consideration for negative impacts on New Mexican families,” Conservation Voters New Mexico said in a statement. “This move validates the position of every advocate and elected official who opposed Flynn’s appointment in the first place, and is a damning testament to the misplaced priorities of Governor Susana Martinez, who thought Flynn was right for the job in the first place.”

Before he became NMED secretary, Flynn was the department’s general counsel.

Flynn’s predecessor, former State Senator Kent Cravens, was one of Flynn’s early backers. When Flynn was confirmed in 2014, Cravens called Flynn fair and reasonable according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Cravens left the State Senate after the special session in 2011. The very next day, he took the Oil and Gas Association job.

Update: Added information about EMNRD.