Youth activists plan protest as oil and gas industry group presents award to Lujan Grisham

A group of activists is planning a protest for Saturday as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham receives an award from an oil and gas industry group. The northern New Mexico leaders of the Youth United for Climate Crisis Action are organizing the protest. Oil and Gas Associates of New Mexico is presenting the governor with an Oil and Gas Leadership and Loyalty Award on Saturday. “Though we have suffered under the bust cycle of COVID-19 and radicals’ calls to transition the economy away from extractive industry—we have had a solid friend in the administration and have appreciated being welcomed to the table, into decision-making and planning spaces,” a press release from Oil and Gas Associates of New Mexico states. The press release highlights Lujan Grisham’s letter to President Joe Biden regarding the moratorium on new leases on federal lands and proposing an alternative.She suggested allowing New Mexico an energy transition credit for the work that has already started to reduce emissions.

Leger Fernandez visits Cerro de la Olla amid push to designate it as a wilderness area

Some places are so special that they deserve the highest level of protection, said U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat who represents northern New Mexico. Cerro de la Olla is one of those places, she said. The dome-shaped caldera already has some protections as part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, however Leger Fernandez is hoping to get it classified as a wilderness area to provide that additional level of protection. She visited Cerro de la Olla for the first time as a congresswoman this week, where she met with stakeholders including members of Taos Pueblo, county leaders and ranchers. After hearing from them, she climbed up the volcano.

Half of New Mexico adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose

New Mexico has now given at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to half of its population age 16 or older, according to the state’s Health Secretary. Dr. Tracie Collins, the secretary of the state Department of Health, said that in addition to the nearly 50 percent of people who have received at least one shot, 31 percent of New Mexicans are fully vaccinated, either through two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state’s numbers show 49.4 percent of New Mexicans aged 16 or older with at least one dose and 31.7 percent fully vaccinated. As of Wednesday’s update, 829,765 New Mexicans had received at least one dose and 533,288 were fully vaccinated. This includes 114,211 doses administered in the last seven days from the state.

Officials say plugging orphaned wells protects public health and environment

At the end of their useful life, every oil and gas well must be plugged to prevent future contamination as the infrastructure ages and to return the site back to its original state. For the most part, this is done by the operator. However, sometimes bankruptcies lead to wells becoming orphaned, meaning there is no operator to plug them. 

Officials say these wells tend to not have had great maintenance and cleaning them up is important to protect both the environment and the health of nearby communities. Democratic Senator Ben Ray Luján says he plans to introduce legislation to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells. This comes as President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for spending $16 billion to plug abandoned wells and mines.

New Mexico one of few states to pass pro-reproductive rights legislation this year

With more than 500 pieces of anti-abortion legislation under consideration in state legislatures around the country, New Mexico’s passage of SB 10, which decriminalized abortion, bucked the nationwide trend. Only one other state passed abortion rights legislation this year. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider and rule on an unconstitutional abortion ban in the next few years, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains President and Chief Executive Officer Vicki Cowart called the passage and signing of New Mexico’s bill to repeal an abortion ban “critical,” and a “key to protecting reproductive rights.”

Related: Governor signs bill repealing abortion ban into law: ‘a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body’

Cowart told NM Political Report by email that this year, Virginia is the only other state that has passed a bill expanding abortion access in 2021. But since the beginning of the year, 12 states have passed anti-abortion legislation, according to a Planned Parenthood report. There are a few other states with pro-reproductive legislation under consideration, Robin Marty, author of “Handbook for a Post-Roe America” and “The End of Roe v. Wade,” said.