New Mexico is in a toxic oil-and-gas relationship
Dependence on fossil fuels is pulling New Mexico down from a safe, clean and healthy future
BY JOSUE DE LUNA NAVARRO
N.M. FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES, AND COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE, POWER 4 NEW MEXICO
If you Google “What are signs you are in a toxic relationship?”, you will run into brief descriptions of the following points: You are not yourself anymore, you feel trapped, and you lose your understanding of what the truth is. And from the sound of it, New Mexico is in a toxic relationship with the oil and gas industry.
New Mexico is not itself anymore.
New Mexicans understand we can build a prosperous state that prioritizes the wellbeing of families and reflects the shared values of protecting our air, land and water for present and future generations. But the oil and gas industry has changed those values. Nowadays, policymakers seem to care more about the well-being of corporations than New Mexicans across the state — who are the true backbone of our economy.
It was recently reported that “unhealthy levels of formaldehyde” were recorded around high-fracking areas and oil counties around the state. Formaldehyde is one of the many carcinogenic chemicals emitted by fracking operations.
At the same time, the oil and gas industry is abusing our precious water resources and poisoning us in the process by convincing us to use their produced water for irrigation. Produced water is a by-product of fracking known to contain hazardous chemicals.
The scientific consensus tells us we have 10 years to transform our fossil fuel extractive economy into a regenerative one. Unfortunately, our toxic partner won’t let us do that.
The oil and gas industry has used its economic “contributions” to education and the state budget to create a “good” public image to justify greed for profit at the expense of our communities’ health.
New Mexicans want a healthy and prosperous future, but the oil and gas industry has New Mexico by the throat. It has created a dependency model that keeps New Mexico from being its best self.
The evidence is overwhelming. A recent report by Common Cause New Mexico and New Mexico Ethics Watch details how the industry has used its money to prevent New Mexico from committing to bold climate policies. Since 2017, the industry has spent $11.5 million on contributions to fossil- fuel-friendly politicians. It’s important to note most contributors are from out of state. Among the top 20 oil-and-gas contributors to campaigns, we see corporations like Exxon, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. Their spending ensures policies benefit their bottom line — not New Mexicans.
For far too long, the oil and gas industry has sold New Mexico the lie our state is nothing without them. But the truth is New Mexico will be better off without the oil and gas industry. According to the Solutions Project, a bold transition to a regenerative economy — a clean-energy economy based on ecological restoration, community protection and equitable partnerships that prioritize vulnerable communities — can directly lead to creating 30,000 long-term clean energy jobs for frontline communities, would save New Mexicans money and would help save hundreds of lives that are lost to air pollution every year. Most importantly we would be taking steps in the right direction to ensure a safe, clean and healthy New Mexico for the upcoming generations.
A healthy and prosperous future exists without the oil and gas industry. Everyone deserves to live in a place where the air, land and water is clean, but the oil and gas industry is pulling us down. It is time we stand up and break up this abusive and toxic relationship. It is time we transform our energy economy and politics to work for the people — not for the oil and gas CEOs.