(The Center Square) – Several Democratic legislators in New Mexico sent a letter to President Joe Biden expressing support for his moratorium on oil and gas leases on federal land, a stance critics say is bad for the state's schools.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, took a different approach in an April letter to Biden, asking that he give New Mexico a pass on the moratorium due to the state budget’s dependence on tax revenue from the leases.
The Tuesday letter, which was also sent to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a former New Mexico congresswoman, was signed by eight state senators and 16 state representatives. While all Democratic legislators were given the opportunity to sign the letter, no Democratic leaders in either chamber chose to do so.
“We write to convey our strong support for your pause and review of federal fossil fuel programs in relation to our country’s climate goals,” the letter begins. “We – the undersigned members of the New Mexico State Legislature – are committed to a deliberate and planned transition from our overreliance on fossil fuels to fund our state’s budget priorities.”
The letter also said the signers “recognize the significant contributions” the oil and gas industry has made to the state, but “we believe that our state’s long-term fiscal health can benefit from this pause and review.”
The letter – and Biden's moratorium – come with plenty of opposition.
Larry Behrens, a director with Power the Future, an oil and gas industry trade group, questions the motivation behind it.
“My guess is this is a DC-led effort to try and show support from energy-rich states for Biden’s terrible energy policy,” he said. “It speaks to the unpopularity of the Biden energy agenda that they are relying on the most radical eco-left legislators in New Mexico for support.”
Some 40% of New Mexico’s $7.2 billion general fund comes from oil and gas leases and more than 90% goes to fund public education.
“Anyone who claims to care about New Mexico’s future or funding for public schools should stand in opposition to the leasing ban and its destructive impacts,” Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “Our legislators’ time is better spent figuring out ways to grow and expand our economy rather than chop away at its most successful parts.”
“Until these legislators give up their gas-powered cars and only use 100 percent wind or solar power in their own homes, this letter is nothing more than an exercise in pathetic political hypocrisy,” he said.