Ex-NMED secretary takes helm of oil and gas group

Starting Tuesday, Ryan Flynn will serve as executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association

James Fenton
  • Flynn replaces Steve Henke, who led the BLM Farmington field office before his stint with NMOGA.
  • Flynn served as the state Environment Department secretary from 2013 to July. He was also served NMED's general counsel from 2011 to 2013.
  • During his time with the state agency, Flynn oversaw the response to the Gold King mine spill and the greenhouse gas reduction agreement for the San Juan Generating Station.
  • The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is an industry advocacy group with 300 member companies, including producers, gatherers and processors, pipeline companies and service companies.
Ryan Flynn, former secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, talks with The Daily Times on Dec. 16. Flynn has accepted a position as executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

FARMINGTON — Former New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn will now lead one of the state's largest oil and gas industry groups.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Chairman Cliff Brunson announced Flynn will be the new executive director of the Santa Fe-based oil and gas advocacy group in a press release issued this afternoon.

"Flynn’s background and experience in legal and regulatory affairs combined with his straightforward leadership and clear communication style are a great fit for our industry in these challenging times," Brunson said in the release. "Ryan’s talents will be extremely important in moving the oil and gas industry forward to create the jobs and provide the revenues that are so important to New Mexico."

Flynn begins his new post on Tuesday.

NMOGA has 300 member companies, including producers, gatherers and processors, pipeline companies and service companies.

From 2013 until he left the department this July, Flynn served as the state Environment Department secretary, a political appointment by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Flynn also served as NMED's general counsel from 2011 to 2013.

Flynn's replacement is Butch Tongate, NMED deputy cabinet secretary, who has been serving as acting cabinet secretary at the NMED.

In his new role at NMOGA, Flynn will replace Steve Henke, who, before leading the oil and gas lobby group for six years, was the head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Farmington field office.

When Henke took the NMOGA post, the group drew complaints from environmentalists who questioned whether Henke's BLM tenure was overly influenced by the industry it oversees.

Chris Saeger — director for the Western Values Project, a conservation group based in Montana and Colorado — said in a statement this evening that Flynn's move is eerily similar to Henke's.

"Here’s hoping Flynn takes a careful look at the methane issue and considers a more balanced and proactive position," Saeger said. "But if past is prologue, that unfortunately for New Mexico taxpayers looks doubtful."

Saegar said that during Flynn's tenure at the NMED, he undermined state air and water protections, favoring industry at the expense of the environment.

Last year, Flynn oversaw the state regulatory agency during its response to the Gold King Mine spill, which released more than three million gallons of mine waste into the Animas River. He also oversaw the greenhouse gas reduction agreement reached in December for the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Waterflow, which allowed it to continue operations.

Under Flynn, the NMED initiated lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as multiple mining companies and the state of Colorado, in response to the Silverton, Colo., mine spill.

Flynn joins the 88-year-old association during a prolonged downturn brought on by record low crude oil and natural gas prices on the commodities market and compounded by a period of increased federal rules and lawsuits from industry opponents.

He will be tasked to "direct and coordinate the industry’s activities and response to legislative, legal and regulatory challenges," according to release.

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.