A warning bell rang southeast when Joe Biden suspended oil and gas drilling leases on federal land earlier this year. New Mexico..
Eddy County officials, who hold a share of New Mexico in the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin, along with neighboring Lea County, were immediately worried about the potential economic downturn.
“This news is very disappointing,” Mayor Allen Davis wrote to a colleague by email. “The message is no longer clear. Southeastern New Mexico is not business-friendly for an industry that has maintained New Mexico’s financial position for decades. [sic].. “
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, New Mexico Stubborn republican Eddy County in the southeast is a rural industrial area with top employers engaged in the mining and oil and gas industries. And county leaders seemed to rely on and maintain influential allies, including FTI Consulting, an international lobbying firm.
FTI, best known for consulting large corporations, Previously, he worked on behalf of major oil and gas companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Cimarex.
But for the past few years, I’ve also lobbied. Agreement Much smaller clients: Eddy County and the city of Carlsbad, where the county office is located.
Emails, contracts, and other records obtained by Timeout and the watchdog organization Documented show that the FTI has used the scaffolding of Carlsbad and Eddy counties for years to drive fossil fuel messages and policies. Is shown. At the same time, FTI has made it easy for energy company clients to access local officials. The company and one of its spin-offs are not registered as lobbyists in the state.
In the first quarter of this year alone, Carlsbad and Eddy counties together paid at least $ 50,000 for FTI’s influence services. These publicly funded lobbying efforts have helped maintain a base for the fossil fuel industry in New Mexico. Indigenous people The community has criticized previous oil and gas policies as environmental racism because of its long-term health and land implications.
Despite being funded by Big Oil, a practice known as astroturfing, the FTI is running an influence campaign that gives the impression that it was initiated by local stakeholders in the United States. It has a good reputation overall.New York Times report FTI staff New Mexicans for Economic Prosperity, A coalition of industry associations and other partners. Among them is the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, which advocates “responsible development” for the state, according to the group’s website.
It’s unclear exactly what FTI’s lobbying has achieved in southeastern New Mexico, but the company has close ties to the mining industry, especially in the small areas of Carlsbad and Eddy. It’s rare for a company of the size of.
For Carlsbad and Eddy counties, the FTI contract was one way to maintain the status quo of drilling.
One way the FTI has harnessed its influence on behalf of New Mexico’s county authorities is to help the press get involved. Eddie’s leaders contacted Jeff Murray, a former Democrat and a powerful lobbyist working with FTI Consulting, when he needed help to oppose Biden’s drilling orders earlier this year. I took it.
Murray offered to help them get “friendly coverage,” including the conservative Washington Examiner, adding that it would be a “good opportunity to tell our story to a wider audience.” Email Obtained by questionnaire.
A few weeks later, the examiner Release A quote from the mayor, Davis, criticized Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for responding to the moratorium on drilling wreaths. [nearby] Lee County provides 35% of the state’s general revenue, so you’ll want to understand how bread is buttered. “
Shortly thereafter, the governor Said publicly She sought a waiver to exempt New Mexico from the order. This is a move strongly opposed by environmentalists.
Jim Townsend, a Republican in Artesia, New Mexico, said oil and gas “should work together” with local government officials.
“They (oil and gas industry) employ many New Mexicans, pay a lot of taxes and have a huge impact on our state. I make my employers fair and reasonable. I’m very supportive of welcoming you to the table, “he said. “Most of these jobs are high-paying career-based jobs. They deserve an important seat at the table.”
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway defended the city’s efforts with the FTI and said the main reason for the deal with the company was to discuss issues of nuclear waste regulation at the federal level. He said the oil and gas industry continues to thrive Carlsbad’s economy.
“Given the thousands of locals working in the oil and gas industry, there will be a clear correlation between supporting this industry and supporting our community,” says Janway. I did. “Our governing body will always do what we feel is best for Carlsbad and its citizens.”
Drilling brings money, but it costs money
The presence of big oil has long been felt in the southeastern corner of New Mexico, where Eddy County is located.
Mining industry A once humble ranch community, first settled with mineral potash and later with oil and gas. There were overwhelming roads for truck traffic, and housing did not become affordable as temporary workers moved to apartments, RV parks, and hotels.
The region is home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, a major tourist destination that can be threatened by pumpjacks and pipelines. Wildlife can be threatened along the Pecos River by expanding industrial activity, such as the endangered Texas hornshell mussels.
Critics say the close relationship between government officials and the fossil fuel industry, promoted by active lobbying companies, is not in the best interests of Carlsbad’s population.
Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuel program manager at Friends of the Earth, said injecting local taxes into oil lobbying companies would upset the reforms needed for the people of Karlsbad and Eddy counties.
“For a very long time, front-line communities have dealt with the irresponsible boom bust cycle of fossil fuel development and have been exposed to the reality of cleanup costs, toxic pollution, and climate change,” Ghio said. I will.
Fast-growing in Eddy County, the only oil and gas drilling Be expected Growth is a major driver of ozone and other types of air pollution that are causing health problems and causing climate crises.
The air quality in Eddy County In the worst in the countryAccording to the American Lung Association that gave it F grade In the case of ozone contamination – from chest pain to poor lung function, it can cause a myriad of health problems.
Instead of leaving these industries, Eddy County authorities are doubling. After all, the local government – Like the rest of New Mexico – Depends on tax revenue from drilling.Oil and gas taxes expected to contribute Over $ 30 Million In Eddy County in fiscal year 2021.
The industry often advertises contributions to the state budget, especially for public school funding in fiscal year 2020. Over $ 1 billion in total.. However, state public services (including schools) are: Worst nationwide..
Ghostwriters and unregistered lobbying
At the end of last year, when both presidential candidates were discussing how to handle oil and gas drilling leases on federal land, FTI’s Jeff Murray made their response by local leaders in the southeastern region of New Mexico. Intervened to help.
he I have written A letter to Joe Biden and Donald Trump praising the virtues of oil and gas drilling in New Mexico. “Energy is one of New Mexico’s top industries, with more than half of its oil production and nearly two-thirds of its natural gas production taking place in the state’s federal territories,” he writes.
Murray then Send A letter to Eddy County authorities requesting signature. All five county commissioners and county commissioner Davis signature, And the county letterhead attached. The FTI message was sent to the president and future presidents under the banner of the county government.
FTI fosters relationships with local New Mexico authorities and leaders in their large energy clients.For example, Murray in 2019 Organized A trip to Washington, DC for former Eddy County Mayor and current County Commissioner Arnie Carlson. On the agenda was a meeting between Cimarex and Chevron officials. Both were clients of FTI and drillers in Eddy County.
In addition to activities at the federal level, the FTI lobbyed New Mexico authorities, including Democratic Speaker of the House Brian Epstein. FTI representatives have met Egolf many times in recent years and, according to documents obtained by Floodlight and Documented, have cast on him to raise funds for a private campaign. FTI Murray earned $ 1,500 in kind Donate For PAC of Egolf.
However, neither FTI nor Jeff Murray are registered as lobbyists in the state database. Murray did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
Delaney Marsco, senior ethics lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, said the public has the right to know when special benefits will be paid to influence civil servants.
“FTI is a sophisticated actor. If you’re circumventing the registration requirements for lobbying in New Mexico, that’s a big problem: the public is exposed to the darkness of FTI’s influential efforts. It means, “says Marsco.
Murray left FTI in February and founded his own company, 535 Group LLC. Records show that the 535 Group is not a registered lobbyist in New Mexico, even though it had $ 10,000. Contract Carlsbad and smaller 1 With Eddie in 2021. Murray’s work in New Mexico seems to be in the same range as when he was an FTI employee.The office Agreement Still at 535.
Despite health and climate risks to dependence on the fossil fuel economy, officials in southeastern New Mexico continue to drive drilling. Davis, the county’s chief civil servant, defended FTI’s oil and gas lobbying by email.
He wrote that “there is a lack of understanding of business and basic economic momentum” needed to move away from fossil fuels.
But Kayley Shoup, Carlsbad-based and organizer of the environmental group Citizens Caring for the Future, said local leaders are pushing the wrong story.
It “prevents our community from sitting at the table with respect to this long economic transition that our country is and will undergo,” Shoup said.
How big oil keeps control of New Mexico with the help of major lobbyists | New Mexico
Source link How big oil keeps control of New Mexico with the help of major lobbyists | New Mexico