NM Senator: Anti-energy industry attacks will continue

March 22, 2024

Midland Reporter-Telegram

by Mella McEwen

New Mexico’s legislative session ended last month, and there were a number of bills that could have affected the region’s oil and gas industry.

Luckily, many of those bills fell by the wayside during the 30-day session, reported New Mexico State Sen. Greg Nibert.

Nibert, who had served in the state House of Representatives since 2016, was appointed to the State Senate by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham just before the session started in January. He succeeded Sen. Stuart Ingle, who retired.

“Six months ago, I was minority leader in the House,” Nibert told members of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association at their membership luncheon Thursday.” Since then, my life has been a whirlwind.”

He told the gathering that 583 bills were introduced to be the session and only 66 passed both houses. Among the agenda items set forth by Gov. Grisham was reworking the state’s Oil and Gas Law that had been enacted in the 1930s. While the industry agrees the law needs to be updated, Nibert said the version under consideration “would not have been friendly to you. It would have made it more difficult for you to do business in New Mexico.”

Proposed changes would have let additional administrative agencies “get their nose in your business,” he said.

Legislation can have unintended consequences, as Nibert showed when he highlighted the Energy Transition Act that sets a statewide standard of 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 80% by 2040 for investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives. It transitions away from coal toward clean energy. There are electric providers providing power to the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico “but Albuquerque and Santa Fe, what will they do?” he asked.

When wind and solar power are not sufficient, he said those communities could buy power off the grid, but the cost would be significant, and is something that could happen in the very near future.

“I suspect when that occurs, the people of Santa Fe and Albuquerque will band together to change that law,” he said. “But it takes time to change so they’ll be in a pickle for a while.”

While a number of bills that would have negatively impacted the industry fell by the wayside, Nibert warned that “the attacks will continue.” He predicted a resolution that residents have a legal right to clean air, soil and water if added to the state’s constitution will be reintroduced. There will also be efforts to change setback rules regarding how far drilling can be from homes or other structures to more reflect those seen in Colorado, he predicted.

“The fact of the matter is, New Mexico is highly dependent on your production,” he told his audience. “Over 50% of our general budget is directly tied to the taxes you pay, the other things you pay. You would think my colleagues on both sides of the aisle would embrace you, thank you for the infrastructure, the healthcare, the education, the opportunities you provide.

“I will thank you. Thank you for deploying capital in our state, for putting up with what you have to put up with do to business in our state, to provide our revenues, to provide energy to our country,” he said.

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