Tensions high as Sandoval County proposes new oil and gas ordinance

Sandoval County’s attempts to plan for oil and gas development continue to draw heated criticism. At their October 19 meeting, county commissioners pulled a proposed ordinance from the agenda, but the commission fielded public comments for nearly an hour, mostly from people who oppose the proposed oil and gas ordinance. Sandoval County covers 3,700 square miles, stretching from Bernalillo to Counselor and Placitas to Torreon. Widespread drilling already occurs in the northern part of the county, which overlaps with the energy-rich San Juan Basin. Those wells are concentrated along Highway 550 north of Cuba and near the Navajo Nation.

Zinke’s high-price flights, oil and gas news and upcoming public meetings

US. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under investigation for his travel arrangements—again. Earlier this week, the department’s Office of the Inspector General opened an investigation into privately chartered flights the secretary took, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. This isn’t the first time Zinke has exercised (alleged) ethical lapses when it comes to air travel. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;}
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NRA tops lobbyist spending with $44K online ad

No issue in the 2017 New Mexico Legislature has drawn citizens to the Roundhouse like the push to expand mandatory background checks on gun sales. People on both sides of the issue have shown up in droves to committee hearings in both the House and Senate to testify about two bills that would require more gun buyers to go through background checks. And lobbyists for out-of-state organizations on both sides of the issue have spent thousands of dollars to push their positions. In fact, according to lobbyist expense reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, the biggest expenditure since the session began in mid-January was $44,377 spent by Tara Reilly-Mica, the Texas-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Reilly-Mica’s report, filed Feb.

Republicans block bill criminalizing false water quality data

Cloudy, brown and rank water flowed from the taps of homes in the northwest corner of New Mexico. Some of those who drank it say they became nauseous. They complained of cramps, headaches and diarrhea. Thousands of people were told to boil their water to guard against illness. Farmington-area residents whose homes are hooked up to the Animas Valley Water system said the water also damaged their water heaters, washing machines and clothes.

Gov. Martinez’s appointees in line to be confirmed may overwhelm process

After a year of high-profile changes in Gov. Susana Martinez’s Cabinet, top officials from several of the most important departments in state government now await Senate confirmation hearings. But the secretaries of environment, finance and health are just of a few of the governor’s nearly 100 appointees on the agenda. With the long list, it is unclear how many appointees will even get a vote before the Senate adjourns March 18. New Mexico’s financial crisis will make confirmation hearings more difficult than usual. Staff members say the Senate Rules Committee only has enough money to conduct background checks on about half the appointees.

Probe finds multiple wrongdoings by ex-Farmington BLM head

A recently-released report by the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General looked into the actions of Steve Henke from when he was in charge of the Bureau of Land Management office in Farmington. The report says the investigation initially looked into the former Farmington district manager’s move from manager of BLM’s field office to being in charge of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. NMOGA represents the oil and gas industry in the state and lobbies BLM and state authorities on behalf of the industry. The OIG, however, expanded the investigation into other areas, including “inappropriate acceptance of meals and other gifts from oil and gas industry representatives,” “authorization of a commercial shooting range illegally construction on BLM land” and alleged misrepresentations and misuse of BLM resources in a land sale. Greenwire, a trade publication, first obtained and wrote about the report by the Interior Department OIG.

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

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. 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.

As crude oil price drops, NM loses jobs

The nosedive in prices for crude oil will result in lower employment in the oil and gas extraction industry in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reported on Wednesday that the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department predicted a drop of at least 2,000 jobs in the industry because of the lower cost of crude oil. Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told New Mexico Political Report said that with crude oil prices dropping, companies need to adjust. “Companies are looking for every efficiency they have,” Drangmeister said in a short phone interview. One efficiency is fewer explorations, less “wildcat wells” in “unproven areas.”

Far from heaven: Fatalities, crime and rents rise alongside oil production

© New Mexico Political Report, 2015. Contact editor@nmpoliticalreport.com for info on republishing. Part two in a series of two. Click here for part one. On a two-lane New Mexico state road, the number of heavy commercial trucks and semis roaring southeast between the villages of Loving and Jal tops 200 in under an hour.

Dark Gold: New Mexico’s oil patch grapples with industry impacts

© New Mexico Political Report, 2015. Contact editor@nmpoliticalreport.com for info on republishing. This story is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here. Eddy County, NM, was a sleepy, low-key place when retired teacher Vickie Connally and her family moved to their little ranch in Loving south of Carlsbad years ago.