Romero talks about energy, federal land

Hannah Grover, and Chris Roberts
Farmington Daily Times
Michael Romero stands behind a campaign sign. Romero is running for New Mexico's District 3 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

FARMINGTON — Michael Romero, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Ben Ray Luján for New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District seat, says Washington, D.C., is out of touch with New Mexico voters.

During an interview with The Daily Times Friday, Romero said he would do things differently, if elected.

Romero said he believes in local control and said the federal government — including Luján — has been distant and detached, undermining faith in the country’s governing structures.

“They hold us accountable, but they don’t hold themselves accountable,” Romero said.

A spokesman for Lujan in Washington D.C. referred a request for comment to his campaign manager, Tara Lujan, who did not respond to email messages and could not be reached on the telephone.

Romero said he wants federal land in New Mexico returned to the state so it can be opened up to commercial projects, including mining, logging and ranching. He also wants any federal land that is inside Spanish land grant boundaries to be returned to the grantees using the state as an intermediary.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

“Can you imagine the wealth, the power that would bring back to New Mexico?” said Romero, who comes from a New Mexico land grant family.

Another way to improve government responsiveness, he said, would be to limit campaign contributions to $5,400 per family or company for each election cycle.

Although he said he doesn’t support the repeal of Citizens United — a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations and unions to make large contributions to super PACs, which are not allowed to communicate directly with the campaigns — he also would limit those contributions. He said it would take more research to arrive at a specific figure.

Romero said he believes in congressional term limits of 12 years, which would be two terms for senators and six terms for representatives. And he would abolish the Seventeenth Amendment. He said that action would allow state legislatures to choose the state’s U.S. senators.

When it comes to the prolonged “bust” experienced by the extractive industries operating in San Juan County, Romero said he does not support government intervention.

Specifically, he said he would not support import quotas, a solution that has been suggested by some New Mexico experts. Those experts say the quotas would push up oil and gas prices enough to stimulate activity in the San Juan Basin and make the United States less reliant on foreign oil. The quotas also would increase the price of gasoline.

Romero believes the Saudi Arabia strategy of flooding the market to push companies with higher operating costs, such as those in the San Juan Basin, out of business, is doomed to fail. He said prices will eventually recover when the Saudis cut production after spending their budget reserves.

“I’m for the free market,” Romero said. Government intervention “creates a bigger mess down the road.”

And Romero believes President Barack Obama has intervened in issues that should be solved locally, overstepping his constitutionally granted powers. In particular, he mentioned Obama's attempt to allow children who were brought into the country illegally by their parents to stay.

Romero said Obama is acting like “a petulant child” by using administrative actions to pursue and fund policies not approved by Congress. Because of those actions, Romero said, “probably in his third year, (Obama) should have been impeached.”

Romero supports an increase in coal production. He said technology is finding ways to target cleaner-burning coal. And he said coal is necessary.

“If we stop doing these things, you better be willing to start walking and be willing to do with a lot less,” he said.

And Romero doesn’t believe greenhouse emissions caused by humans are a significant factor in climate change.

“We’re not gods. We’re not affecting it at all,” Romero said. “People say Republicans want dirty water and dirty air. We have to breathe the same air and drink the same water. But you want us to live in poverty so we can save the earth?”

Nonetheless, Romero said he supports research into alternative forms of energy. However, it should be done by private industry when it’s profitable, he said.

Romero also said he would go to bat for the nation’s veterans. He said the Veterans Administration has consistently failed them and should be abolished. He said veterans should be given vouchers so they can see the doctor of their choice.

“Basically, privatize it,” Romero said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Chris Roberts is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4624.