New Mexico Officials Express Alarm Over White House’s 60-Day Pause on Oil Leases

January 24, 2021 Updated: January 24, 2021

Officials in New Mexico have expressed alarm over President Joe Biden’s 60-day pause on new oil and natural gas leases and permits to drill, saying the industry is tied to spending on education and other programs in the state.

“During his inauguration, President Biden spoke about bringing our nation together. Eliminating drilling on public lands will cost thousands of New Mexicans their jobs and destroy what’s left of our state’s economy,” Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway told The Associated Press on Jan. 22. “How does that bring us together? Environmental efforts should be fair and well-researched, not knee-jerk mandates that just hurt an already impoverished state.”

In an op-ed, Janway wrote that the Department of Interior “did not limit existing oil and gas operations under valid leases, and many companies have stockpiled drilling permits, so much of the work going on in our oilfields will hopefully continue for some time.”

“We call upon all of New Mexico’s elected officials to oppose all proposals that go in the direction of eliminating drilling on public lands. Such an outcome would only punish poorer states such as New Mexico by moving more operations over to states with more privately-owned land, such as Texas. Environmental efforts must always be balanced with consideration of economics and fairness,” he wrote.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office told the news outlet that the administration is reviewing the federal action.

“Certainly we all understand the critical importance of this industry to New Mexico’s bottom line and of the imperative to diversify our state economy and energy portfolio,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said in an email, without elaborating.

The AP noted that New Mexico’s oil production happens on federal land and amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in funding each year, which is doled out to state education initiatives and other programs.

“It really has the opposite intent,” said Robert McEntyre, spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, according to the AP. “It means some natural gas is not going to be captured, and that’s not what operators want to do. They want to capture it and send it to market.”

Environmental groups praised Biden’s executive action.

“Any step toward fixing the broken federal oil and gas leasing program is a step in the right direction,” said Mark Allison, director of the group New Mexico Wild, AP reported.

According to Biden’s transition office, the move is part of a plan designed to halt “attack[s] on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.”

Some Republicans on social media, responding to the AP’s report, noted that New Mexico voted in favor of Biden over President Donald Trump.

The Epoch Times reached out to the White House for comment.