New Mexico’s fight to escape the grasp of Big Oil and Gas

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez quickly learned the harsh reality of New Mexico politics after she was appointed to fill an empty seat in the state senate two years ago. One of the first bills she pushed sought a four-year pause on new fracking permits on state lands, taking that time to study the environmental, health and safety impacts of the controversial oil and gas drilling technique. Sedillo Lopez believed it was a sensible piece of legislation, one that was tempered and looked out for New Mexicans. But almost right away, the bill died,never getting out of committee. The same thing happened to a similar measure she pushed earlier this year, with support from dozens of environmental and Indigenous organizations.

BLM boss still on the job despite judge’s ruling

ALBUQUERQUE — The Bureau of Land Management says it will challenge a judge’s ruling that ousted William Perry Pendley as director of the agency last week. In the meantime, Pendley is still at the agency, and influencing BLM policies. For the past few years, the Trump administration has avoided confirmation hearings by putting acting officials in charge of top agencies and departments. The judge found Pendley had been on the job illegally for more than 400 days without a Senate confirmation. Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the administration has used shortcuts to advance controversial policies.

With meat plant closures and meat shortages on horizon, can cattle ranchers survive?

Aubrey Dunn and his wife Robin run a cattle operation north of Carrizozo, NM, and the couple, now grandparents, own roughly 250 head of cattle. Like other cattle ranchers, Dunn, who was formerly the New Mexico State Land Commissioner, is part of an industry that faces high prices for cattle upkeep and low sale prices per head of cattle at market. 

Because it costs an average of $300 to $400 annually to maintain a cow and cattle prices have been trending downward, Dunn said the cattle business has not been profitable in recent years. In the past, drought or finding affordable feed or space to accommodate livestock were typical problems for a cattle rancher—but that was before the COVID-19 coronavirus forced the shutdown of meat processing facilities across the country. Dunn said this could create long-term hardships ahead for New Mexico cattle producers. Hardships ahead for New Mexico cattle ranchers

Sid Gordon, New Mexico State University Extension Office agent in Otero County, said some producers have part-time businesses or jobs because it can take hundreds of head of cattle for a single family to be successful at cattle production alone, Gordon said.

Tribes receive partial COVID-19 funds: Too little, too late?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Tribal communities now will begin receiving federal coronavirus relief funding, a week after the government missed a congressional deadline for distribution, and only after being sued over who is eligible for the money. In a phone call with reporters on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., noted that the Navajo Nation — located in portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah — is reporting one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the country. “Yet the $8 billion Tribal Relief Fund we fought was stuck in the Trump Treasury Department for six weeks,” he said, “but this announcement comes weeks too late and billions of dollars short.” On reservations, the rate of COVID-19 infections per 1,000 people is four times higher than in other parts of the country. Based on population, payments totaling about $5 billion will go out to tribes over the next several days.

Using NM’s great outdoors respectfully during pandemic

SANTA FE, N.M. – If you’re headed out to use New Mexico’s trails or open space this weekend, outdoor experts say you should make the health of others your number one priority during the current health crisis. Terry Owen leads outings as the chairman of the Outings and Military Outdoors Program for the Rio Grande Chapter of the New Mexico Sierra Club. Owen says if you can, it’s a good idea to find a trail off the beaten path. At the same time, he says you shouldn’t travel so far that it requires a stop – which could possibly mean interacting with others who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus. “This pandemic that we’re seeing is life and death for a lot of people,” says Owen.

In New Mexico our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are protected

This week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the Federal Civil Rights Act applies to gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans. It currently bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for employment and housing. However, President Trump argues that they should not be protected and a decision is expected before year’s end. New Mexicans should know, however, that state law is crystal clear. Our Human Rights Act specifically makes it illegal to use sexual orientation and gender identity to discriminate.

Sec. Bernhardt threatens diversity of NM economics, out-of-step with NM values

It should come as no surprise that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s Tuesday visit to Santa Fe is as a featured guest at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Annual Meeting. As the head of the agency in charge of protecting our nation’s public lands, managing our natural resources and honoring our responsibilities to indigenous peoples, Bernhardt’s fossil fuel-first agenda is at odds with New Mexico’s goal of diversifying its economy and protecting our health, treasured public lands, and cultural values that New Mexicans hold dear. In New Mexico, Bernhardt oversees 13 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands as well as National Parks and Monuments such as Chaco Canyon, Bandelier, Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands. These natural and cultural wonders are an essential part of our health, our heritage, and our outdoor recreation and tourism economies. Under Bernhardt, the Interior Department has joined with the Environmental Protection Agency in rolling back air, land and water protections at an alarming rate.

Trumping the BLM

Ever since public lands were made permanent parts of the American experience around the turn of the last century, there have been people dedicated to their privatization. The American people have strongly resisted the sale of public lands, frustrating those who saw the Donald Trump administration as a key opportunity to sell off national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and national parks to states and corporations. There is little appetite in Congress for selling off these lands owned by all Americans, but now the Trump administration is working behind the scenes to disassemble our public land agencies and sell off their resources, though not the lands themselves. Of the four major federal land agencies, the Trump administration has first focused on the BLM in their efforts to disassemble the agency and weaken regulations. 

The BLM controls 248 million acres of public land and administers some 700 million acres of federal subsurface mineral rights. These are mostly lands that were left over after the national forests and other protected areas were set aside and often consist of remote desert lands in the vast interior of the West.

Why extreme risk protection orders can make a difference

It was a mundane and typical American activity. Families doing their back-to-school shopping in an El Paso Walmart. Suddenly a gunman opened fire. Scores were killed and injured. But they were not targeted indiscriminately.

It’s all hands on deck for the 2020 Census

New Mexicans know exactly what they need to ensure each and every one of our families can succeed: fully funded public systems like our schools, hospitals, and roads –all vital for a prosperous state. Unfortunately, this may not become a reality for N.M. if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of adding a controversial “citizenship question” to the upcoming 2020 census form. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, this question holds many implications for communities of color across our state. The proposed “citizenship question” does not directly disclose the immigration status of a person residing in the country undocumented. Yet, the current political environment and increased immigration enforcement being carried out by the current federal administration has had an adverse effect on the public’s perception of the use of such question and the possible uses of this information in the near future.