ByAlgernon D'Ammassa, Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico In Depth |
Seated on the floor of First Christian Church on a recent Sunday morning, Pastor Dave Rogers pierces the heart of a debate in Carlsbad as it adapts to a historic oil and natural gas boom. Rogers recounts to three children the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man from a despised group helps a traveler beaten, robbed and left for dead after religious passers-by ignore him. “I wonder what it’s like to be a neighbor to somebody we don’t know and that needs our help,” Rogers asks his young listeners as a dozen or so adults, mostly senior citizens, look on. Welcoming strangers and helping neighbors are values many in the small congregation – and broader community – identify with Carlsbad.
—A Susana Martinez adviser on energy policy said at an energy conference this weekend that the oil and gas market is in a “bust” period. From the Farmington Daily-Times:
“This is what a bust is. You lose the workforce,” said [Daniel] Fine, who is associate director at New Mexico Center for Energy Policy at New Mexico Tech. “Loss to the country and to the Southwest will be the workforce. It will be decimated at levels of less than $30 a barrel (of crude oil).”
Gov. Susana Martinez unveiled a state energy plan on Monday morning at the Southeastern New Mexico Energy Summit in Carlsbad. Martinez’s office called the plan the first such comprehensive policy for New Mexico in 25 years and the plan is predicated on energy abundance. The plan is available on the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department website. “New Mexico is one of the most energy-rich and energy-diverse states in the nation, and we have an excellent opportunity to utilize this position to grow our economy and create more jobs,” Martinez said in a statement. “Improving our energy infrastructure, responsibly developing and producing energy of all types, and better preparing our workforce for the needs of our energy sector are all critical components not only of a strong economic future, but of helping lead America to energy independence.”
With crude prices plummeting Monday to a six-year low, state senators approved a $6.2 billion state budget with fingers crossed that the cost of oil will at least stay steady enough to preserve funding plans until the next fiscal year. Sen. John Arthur Smith, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said steep drops in oil and natural gas prices meant a $35 million reduction in total revenue available for appropriations. “We’re moving ahead precariously,” said the Democrat from Deming, adding that “we’re hoping that this next year will be a better year, but we’re very concerned.”
The Senate’s budget for the most part closely tracks the House version. The Senate version has an added $12.9 million to result in a small 1.3 percent increase across all state government programs.
That $12.9 million was divvied up for additional investments for the public schools’ K-3 Plus interventions and increases for the Developmental Disability waiver and Family, Infant and Toddler Programs. It also includes a salary boost for nurses and allied professions and a restoration of funds cut in previous years for public broadcasting and higher education athletic programs.
The Senate also added $2.5 million in non-recurring spending to the state’s fund for the Local Economic Development Act. The cabinet-level Economic Development Department had requested $50 million for the program, which allows local governments to create public-private partnerships for economic development projects.
President Theodore Roosevelt declared Chaco Canyon to be an historical monument on March 11, 1907, and 108 years later to the day, a coalition of environmental groups leveled a lawsuit against the federal government alleging inadequate protection of the area. John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, said on Wednesday that the timing was coincidental but appropriate, representing “another important milestone in the effort to protect Greater Chaco.” The primary threat to Chaco Canyon in Roosevelt’s time was looting of archaeologically and culturally precious sites, said Horning. “Today the threat is oil and gas development and fracking in particular.” Horning said the groups who brought the lawsuit hope to not only halt industry activity in the Chaco area, but to set “the foundation for a much better movement.”