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Despite Oil Industry’s Impact on State’s Economy, Fracking Ban Advances in State Legislature

By Elyse Kelly

(The Center Square) – A bill to stop all fracking permits in New Mexico for four years passed its first hurdle in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 149, introduced by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Bernalillo) and state Rep. Patricia Roybal Cabellero (D-Bernalillo) passed the Senate Conservation Committee, 5-4.

If it passes both chambers, the bill would place a four-year moratorium on new permits for hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas or oil, costing the state billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs.

A fiscal impact report estimates the bill will cost the state $2 billion the first year, rising each year until fiscal 2025, when it would cost the state $3.8 billion.

Larry Behrens, western states director for Power the Future, a nonprofit that aims to improve the national energy conversation, said this bill was brought forward by politicians who are out of touch.

He points out the bill was heard in committee during a major winter storm.

“I’m really curious as to what the proponents of this bill are using to heat their homes,” Behrens told The Center Square. “If they’re using natural gas, which over two-thirds of New Mexico homes use, the people proposing this bill are hypocrites to be able to use these fuel sources that they’re trying to destroy to stay warm, while they’re trying to undermine the energy workers of our state.

“It’s absolute hypocrisy, and you know, maybe they’ve figured out how to burn hypocrisy to stay warm. I don’t know,” said Behrens.

After President Joe Biden’s executive orders halted all new leasing and drilling permits on federal lands, many New Mexico officials pushed back citing the real-world effects that such rules would have on the state.

Behrens points to a letter from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s’ energy secretary to the Biden administration that says the rules are confusing, causing uncertainty, and noting that the state is losing rigs and energy jobs as operations move to Texas, which has far more leases on private lands.

Now, New Mexico legislators are trying to do it to themselves.

“I think it’s absolutely politics,” Behrens said.

Behrens points out other states, including Wyoming and West Virginia, have studied what Biden’s executive orders are doing and will do to the states if they become permanent. They also all agree New Mexico will be one of the hardest hit.

“And yet our governor has only offered useless statements to the public,” he said.

SB 149 has to advance out of two more committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, before it reaches the Senate floor.

Elyse Kelly writes for The Center Square.

This article originally appeared on The Center Square and is reprinted with permission.

Elyse Kelly
Elyse Kelly writes for The Center Square.

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