Governor Lujan Grisham’s climate change order draws ire of oil and gas industry

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

SANTA FE — Minutes after a group of oil and gas executives left a meeting with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Chief Operations Officer Teresa Casados, dramatic changes in state regulations on the industry were imposed. 

The Bat Brigade, a group of Carlsbad business leaders, was in Santa Fe Monday and Tuesday to meet with state officials to discuss the needs of southeast New Mexico and how the State could address them. 

This year’s trip included representatives from oil and gas companies Sendero Midstream, Devon Energy and Anadarko Petroleum. 

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But none of the industry leaders were told or included in the discussion on an executive order signed Tuesday that would establish the New Mexico Climate Change Task Force, which plans to make recommendations to the governor by September. 

The task force was comprised of Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department James Kenney and the Cabinet Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Sarah Cottrell Propst. 

The order also announced that Grisham is pursuing greater regulations for methane releases from oil and gas operations, and aligned New Mexico with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, joining the U.S. Climate Alliance along with 18 other states including Colorado — and vowing to reduce air pollution to 45 percent less than 2005 levels in 12 years.

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Candidate for New Mexico governor  Michelle Lujan Grisham addresses voters during a campaign stop, Aug. 29, 2018, in Carlsbad.

“Today marks an important shift in direction on climate policy in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said. “We know all too well states cannot rely on the federal government right now to act responsibly and take the bold action scientists have made clear is needed to prevent calamitous climate change fallout in our lifetimes.

"It’s up to us. And I have full confidence our commitments today will launch our state toward a robust transformation, with results delivered by each state agency to make a cohesive, effective whole.”

Both Propst and Kenney met with the Bat Brigade on Monday, and vowed to work with Carlsbad and Eddy County’s Industry leaders on policy that could impact the region. 

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Clint Cone, operations manager at Sendero Midstream said he was optimistic about working with the newly-appointed officials after Monday. 

But when he heard about the executive order for the first time on his way back home, Cone said he was “shocked” and disappointed.”

“This is going to affect the producers,” Cone said. “I felt encouraged after the first day. I thought they were going to include us in the discussion. They could have told us when we were in the governor’s office. It’s disappointing.” 

Cone said the industry and region’s only recourse is to continue to make trips to Santa Fe, in hopes their voices will be heard. 

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“They knew what we were up there for,” he said. “We felt like we were going to be part of the team. We’re just going to have to work harder to do what’s best for the state and environment.”

Kenney in particular, Cone said, discussed transparency and bringing all stakeholders to the bargaining table when it came to policy. 

After the executive order was announced, Cone said he wasn’t so sure. 

“We knew there were going to be changes,” he said. “Kenney said he wasn’t just going to make the rules. He said he was going to share information. This goes against what he said.”

The move was touted by environmentalists groups as a step toward addressing climate change, and industry's impact on the environment. 

“Climate change is the greatest crisis facing humanity. If we don’t act urgently, climate disruption will negatively impact every other major issue we struggle with, including the economy, health care and racial and economic justice," said David Coss, chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. 

 “Climate change threatens clean drinking water and food affordability for all of our children and grandchildren. I am so grateful that we now have a governor who understands that urgency and is acting accordingly.”

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Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund said the change was needed as New Mexico suffers from climate change and other impacts of pollution. 

“The Governor’s bold new order is a commitment that New Mexico will rise to meet the climate challenge. Getting enforceable, pollution-reducing policies on the books will help protect the lungs and the livelihood of New Mexicans who deserve clean air and a stable environment,” he said.

“Increased water scarcity, more intense wildfires and prolonged droughts are becoming the new climate reality in New Mexico. Addressing these serious problems takes leadership and decisive action, the very kind that Governor Lujan Grisham made clear with her order today.”

And Laura Weahkee, executive director of the Native American Voters Alliance said pollution is a grave concern of Native Americans in New Mexico, and it must be addressed at the state level.
“We cannot afford to ignore the extreme weather created by climate change. Native communities are disproportionately affected by these changes, including drought and more dangerous wildfire, she said. 

“We commend Gov. Lujan Grisham for issuing today’s executive order that will directs state agencies to cut methane – a powerful climate change pollutant – and set clear goals for cutting pollution. Gov. Lujan Grisham demonstrates the leadership that is necessary to address the environmental justice issue of climate change and tackle methane pollution across the state.”

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But Phillip McGlasson, business supervisor at Anadarko Petroleum said more state regulations are unnecessary for an industry already heavily regulated at the federal level, and committed to preserving the environment. 

(left to right) CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Robert Defer, General Manager of New Mexico Operations at Intrepid Potash Robert Baldridge and Chairman of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Donavan Mager meet with New Mexico Chief Operating Officer Teresa Casados, Jan. 29, 2019 at the Roundhouse.

He also said he was disappointed by the governor’s actions and decision to not meet with the Bat Brigade directly. 

“They didn’t spend as much time with us as I hoped,” McGlasson said. “I was disappointed the governor didn’t come see us. 

"We try to be as compliant, as ecologically responsible as we can be. We don’t want to pollute. We have families here.”

And his first impression of the new administration after the signing, McGlasson said, was not good. 

“I’m concerned and apprehensive,” he said. “I really hope for the best.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.