New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told a U.S. House subcommittee recently that she sees the leading oil and natural gas producing state also becoming the nation's leading developer of clean energy alternatives.
Lujan Grisham told the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources during a field hearing that she has found that collaboration with stakeholders including the industry has helped with her administration’s recent actions on methane emissions and produced wastewater. The subcommittee hosted the hearing to explore the cultural and environmental impacts on New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon area, which has Native American significance.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has a statewide climate change task force in place to review oil and gas regulations, with a report due in August. Citing public health and environmental protection as the primary drivers, Lujan Grisham said she intends to lead New Mexico in a way that "we take our environmental destiny into our own hands. Indeed in many ways, we already have," she added.
Under the governor, New Mexico has goals to switch to 100% carbon-free energy use by the state's utilities in the coming decades. The policy comes at a time when the Permian Basin’s resurgence in the state has pushed it ahead of California and Alaska as a leading oil producer.
Through an executive order issued earlier this year, Lujan Grisham set in motion a war on methane, directing the climate change panel to come up with a "statewide, enforceable" regulatory framework. Federal researchers have in the past pinpointed New Mexico as a major source of methane emissions. Lujan Grisham estimates that at least half of those volumes can be contained by "proven, cost-effective and innovative technologies," along with better industry practices.
"The state Environment Department has begun regular inspections of the oil and natural gas industry to identify methane leaks," Lujan Grisham said.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) has supported the governor’s clean energy and environmental push. Lujan Grisham’s 100% carbon-free goal pertains to electricity generation, not oil and gas production, according to NMOGA spokesman Robert McEntyre.
Regarding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico restricts drilling on state lands within a 10-mile radius, but most of the nearby lands are federally managed. Democratic members of the committee indicated that they would continue to try to block the Trump administration’s efforts to step up drilling on those lands.
"Trump and his allies want to steamroll tribal communities, pave over sacred land and pollute until there's nothing left to save," said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).