Even though they aren’t actively producing oil or gas, orphaned wells can still spew climate-changing gases into the atmosphere and threaten water sources. U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico, said plugging these wells is an important step to protecting communities and can help put people back to work. He has teamed up with Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, to introduce the Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells Act, also called the REGROW Act, calling for $4.275 billion to clean up orphaned wells on state and private lands as well as $400 million for plugging wells on public and tribal lands. It also includes $32 million for related research, development and implementation. “New Mexico has the worst methane emissions in the country,” Luján told NM Political Report last week.
NASA scientists have discovered a methane hotspot the size of Delaware over the San Juan Basin in the northwest portion of the state.
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.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time, with two of the three representatives, both Democrats, in New Mexico’s delegation voting in favor of the historic vote on Wednesday. The House voted 237-197 to impeach Trump, saying that Trump incited violence and the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week when his supporters took control of the building, driving lawmakers into hiding while some called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Trump is the first person to be impeached twice. Ten Republicans voted along with all Democrats to impeach Trump, after no Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate voted to acquit Trump of those charges in February of 2020.
Domestic terrorism. Insurrection. Insanity. That’s what elected officials from New Mexico called what happened when a mob of right-wing Trump supporters stormed and briefly took over the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, as the House and Senate were debating challenges to election results based on unfounded conspiracy theories about voter fraud. The Senate voted against any objections that would undermine the majority of voters in any states.
New Mexico voters embraced candidates in the 2020 elections that have historically been underrepresented, including women, in elected office. The state saw a slew of “firsts” this year.
For the first time in the state’s history, New Mexico’s three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be held by women of color. And both Yvette Herrell, who will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, and Deb Haaland, who won reelection to the state’s 1st Congressional District, are enrolled members of Indigenous nations. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo, and Herrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, making New Mexico the first state in the U.S. to have two Indigenous Representatives.
Teresa Leger Fernandez, who won New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, is Latina.
Terrelene Massey, Diné (Navajo) and the executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said she’s really excited to see more representation from women, especially women of color and Native American women. “I think they’ll provide different perspectives on the different issues they’ll be working on,” Massey said.
The final Albuquerque Journal poll ahead of the elections showed large leads for Democrats in the race for president and U.S. Senate, as well as two of the three U.S. House races—but one House race is extremely close. The poll, conducted by Research and Polling, found a lead of 12 percentage points for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump for president, 54 percent to 42 percent among those who are likely to vote or who have already voted. Most analysts have listed New Mexico as a safely or likely Democratic state on the presidential level. Democrats have won New Mexico’s five electoral votes in the last three presidential elections. The Journal reported Biden had large leads among women, Hispanic voters and moderates in addition to liberals.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján maintained a double-digit lead in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat according to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report. The poll showed that Luján led Republican Mark Ronchetti 51 percent to 41 percent, with 3 percent saying they would vote for Libertarian candidate Bob Walsh. Six percent said they were not sure. Related: Biden with leads Trump by 14 points in NM
The open U.S. Senate race came after Tom Udall said he would not seek a third term. Udall was initially elected in 2008 and easily won reelection in 2014.
This week, we’re running a series of interviews with New Mexico’s federal candidates, each of whom answered questions about issues related to our energy future, water scarcity and climate change.
The following interview is with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall. Udall announced in March of 2019 that he would not run for reelection.
Luján, a Democrat, has served as U.S. Rep. for New Mexico’s third congressional district since 2009. In 2019, he was voted Assistant Speaker of the House by the House Democratic caucus.
Luján also served on the state’s Public Regulation Commission from 2005-2008 and served as chairman of the commission from 2005 to 2007.
Luján is running against former TV meteorologist and political newcomer Mark Ronchetti, a Republican, and Bob Walsh, a Libertarian. Ronchetti did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. You can read our Q&A with Walsh here.
NM Political Report (NMPR): What energy future do you see for New Mexico and the United States?
A national children’s advocacy group, First Focus on Children, reported Wednesday that federal annual spending on children is in decline. First Focus on Children held an online presentation with various speakers, including New Mexico U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, to discuss some of the needs not being met at the federal level for children in the U.S.
The First Focus on Children’s Budget 2020 estimated that federal spending on children as a share of the federal budget reached 7.48 percent in 2020. First Focus on Children held its online summit on September 30 because Wednesday is the start of the new fiscal year for government agencies. The Trump administration’s budget proposal for FY 2021 would trim the federal share of spending in a single year cut of $21 billion to children’s programs on an inflation-adjusted basis. First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley interviewed Luján and asked him what he is hearing from families as he campaigns in his bid to win the open U.S. senate seat.