FARMINGTON — A former secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department has been appointed to lead Region 6 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The selection of Ken McQueen was announced in a Aug. 5 press release from the EPA.

The former oil and natural gas industry executive will oversee the agency's work in Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 tribal nations.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the release that McQueen's experience in public service and knowledge of natural resource issues make him "an excellent choice" to head the regional office.

"I look forward to working with Ken to advance the agency's mission and protect human health and the environment for our south central residents," Wheeler said.

Camilla Feibelman, director of Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter, denounced McQueen's appointment in a press release from the environmental group.

"Putting an oil and gas executive like Ken McQueen in charge of our drinking water and the air our children breathe is a dangerous mistake. McQueen has repeatedly proven he will put the interests of oil and gas companies before our health and the bountiful resources that make New Mexico and Southwest unique," Feibelman said.

Before serving as a cabinet secretary under former Gov. Susana Martinez's administration, McQueen spent 14 years as WPX Energy San Juan Vice President and retired in May 2016, according to The Daily Times archives.

Martinez, who appointed McQueen in December 2016, commented about his selection in the EPA release.

"Ken has proved his strong leadership and depth of knowledge within the private sector and as my energy cabinet secretary. I wish Ken much success in his new role," Martinez said.

The EPA press release states during McQueen's work at WPX Energy, he also was an adjunct professor in petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa.

He worked as a joint venture engineer for Vintage Petroleum Inc. from 1994 to 2002 and as a petroleum engineer for Amerada Hess Corp. from 1982 to 1994, according to the EPA.

Feibelman said McQueen "neglected" his responsibility to protect the state when he was energy secretary.

"McQueen called climate change 'just part of the history of the world we live in' and said the methane hotspot over the Four Corners – which scientists have shown is attributable in large part to oil and gas methane leaks and flaring – is due to 'natural causes.' He failed to support laws to allow the state to hold oil and gas companies accountable for thousands of safety violations," she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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