The US Congressional Hearing on Chaco Leaves Little to Cheer as Our Leadership Focuses on Our Partnership with G&O

The Governor and her energy Secretary spoke glowingly of our partnership with gas and oil while Indigenous leaders spoke from the heart about the sanctity of Chaco and the land.  Sadly, we’ve got centuries of US history that undermines hopes that even Chaco can be saved from the ravages of greed and failure of moral courage among our leadership. .

Wednesday, April 17, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, at the Center for Progress and Justice,1420 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe.From Rocket Docket to Moonshot!  A Recap of the 2019 New Mexico Legislative Session.  Featured speakers include House Speaker Brian Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth. They will be joined by a number of our other state legislators who represent Santa Fe County. Together we’ll review legislative accomplishments of 2019 and the outlook for 2020.  There is no doubt that much was accomplished in the 2019 session, including a raised minimum wage (albeit a smaller one than proposed), several election and lobbying reform bills, gun violence prevention legislation, a huge increase in funding for K-12 education and even the Health Security Act study. None of this was remotely possible just two years ago. Not close. BUT, much was not accomplished and tonight it would be good to ask Democratic leadership about a few things:
  • If HB 546 was such important legislation and if ‘produced’ water is such a great idea, why was it only introduced in the last day of the session and with no opportunity for public comment?
  • Given the severity of the climate crisis, how could critical energy bills like HB 210 Community Solar fail to get to the Governor and SB 459 Local Choice Energy, never even get a hearing?
  • What is Democratic Party leadership’s solution for a Senate that failed to pass HB 51 Abortion Decriminalization and stalled so many other important bills in committee?
    • HB 210 Community Solar Act, HB 141 State Disclosure of Confidential Information, and SB 196/HB195 No Resources for Federal Immigration Law, all were never called for hearing in Senate Judiciary;
    • SB 374 Local Choice Energy and SB 459 Hydraulic Fracturing Permits and Reporting were never scheduled to be heard in Senate Conservation;
    • SB 456 Electric Utility Resource Procurement Act was never scheduled for hearing in Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee Chair; and
    • HB 356 Cannabis Taxation and Regulation, HJR 1 Permanent Funds for Early Childhood, HB 416/ SB 405 Medicaid Buy-In, and SB 39 Solar Market Development Tax Credit all were never scheduled for hearing in Senate Finance Committee;

I plan to attend, but I can only ask one question, if lucky, so if you plan to attend, please consider using the above to respectfully ask for clarification. But do keep in mind, there is much to celebrate from the session and that should not be lost. It is just that the composition of the House and Senate will not change for the 2020 session and Democratic leadership is not inclined to encourage primary challenges that would be necessary to change the political calculus in the Senate, so what are our options if endless patience isn’t one of them?

New Energy Economy’s Legislative Debrief, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5:30PM – 7:00PM, Wednesday, El Museo Cultural, 555 Camino de la Familia, Santa Fe (across the Railroad tracks from Farmers Market. Topics to be discussed include: Legislative Session Debrief; Unveiling our next bold initiative before the PRC to defend consumers, demand corporate accountability, and protect our environment; Upcoming Supreme Court Case on renewable energy bid-rigging practice by PNM.  CLICK to Email your RSVP for April 17th convening and be among the first to hear about initiatives New Energy Economy is bringing forward this Spring and Summer. It is really too bad that this conflicts with the Wirth-Egolf Q&A.

1 celebrateLAST CHANCE TO RSVP.  Thursday, April 18, 5:30pm-7:15 pm, Center for Progress & Justice, 1420 Cerrillos, Santa Fe. Please note the slight modification in time.  We were contacted by the Sunrise Movement in Santa Fe as they were trying to organize a Green New Deal Town Hall with Rep. Deb Haaland and the only day she could make it in the near future was on April 18.  So we made some adjustments in the timing and will integrate both events, with Retake’s Celebration and Volunteer Appreciation from 5:30-7:15 pm and the Sunrise Movement Town Hall with Rep. Haaland at 7:30. .We will also be eating in the Community Room next to the kitchen to allow the Green New Deal folks to set up the auditorium. If you plan to stay for the Town Hall, I’d recommend putting down a coat in the auditorium to save yourself a good seat.

During our celebration at 5:30, we will also update you on our analysis of the Roundhouse Session and how you/we/Retake can continue our work. While no doubt we achieved some important wins, as our Report Card will reveal, we have a long, long way to go….and we are starting to get a clearer picture of what we need to do to prepare for future legislative sessions and we will share some of those thoughts on Thursday.  We also want to alert you to our Thursday, May 9 Input and Strategy Session from 6:30-8:30 at 1420 Cerrillos where we want to have everyone who was part of the Roundhouse legislative session, come together to provide input into how our process worked, how it can be improved, and what we can do over the next year to prepare for the 2020 session and 2020 primaries. 

Please RSVP for the 18th by writing to Paul at Paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. The event is free, but we need you to RSVP.  We are ordering pizza (some veggie), making a huge salad and a gluten-free, vegan bean and rice stew and need to prepare sufficient tables with table cloths.  We also want to avoid one-use plastic and paper products, so we are asking that you bring your own implements for eating and drinking and the event is BYOB with wine and beer permitted.  Join us!!!  

 

Reaction to US Congressional Hearing

I sat through the US Congressional Hearing on Monday. Frankly, midway through the hearing, I was very disappointed at what I was hearing.

The entire hearing was full of polite expressions of appreciation for all the efforts made by our Democratic House Representatives, by our Governor, by NM state legislature and even by the gas and oil industry. Far too much of the Hearing focused on our reliance on gas and oil revenue and their being a key stakeholder in our transition.  Unfortunately, the Hearing offered little evidence of that changing any time soon.

The subcommittee included:

  1. House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
  2. Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.)
  3. Committee Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.)
  4. Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)–who facilitated the hearing

The Hearing began with Governor Lujan Grisham whose opening comments focused on the tragic loss of revenue because we had not been able to capture methane.  Nary a word was mentioned about how methane was cooking the planet, nary a word was mentioned of how we need to keep the oil in the ground. Gov. Lujan Grisham noted that she also wanted to recapture the methane and that the $43 M in lost revenue from failure to do so could be well-spent on early childhood education.  When Subcommittee Chair Congressman Alan Lowenthal asked about the relationship between state political leadership and the gas and oil industry, the Governor’s response was telling. The first thing she mentioned was that she was proud that the gas and oil industry did not oppose SB 489, the Energy Transition Act. She went on to articulate how she felt confident that moving forward, NM would make a just transition with all stakeholders at the table.  What was left unsaid, was that with the New Mexico Gas and Oil Association at the table, any legislation or policy development would have their fingerprints on it and without their approval, nothing would transpire.

The second panel was comprised of only indigenous leaders from impacted pueblos and the Navajo Nation. They spoke movingly of the spiritual heritage that is Chaco and the absolute necessity of protecting it. They went on to decry the failure of gas and oil and the state and federal government to consult meaningfully with the indigenous community and the history of the industry’s exploitation of tribal land.  Their testimony stood in stark contrast to most of what was said by elected officials and appointees who spoke before and after the delegation of indigenous leaders.

In the third panel, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Catrell Prost drilled home the degree to which our Governor plans to cater to oil and gas. Secretary Propst:

  • Proudly crowed about the Permian Basin being the most prolific fracking region in the United States;
  • She spoke of how  SB 553, a bill designed to establish fee structures for fines for gas and oil leaks had enjoyed widespread industry support. Hard to imagine how biting those fines will be given the industry’s approval of the bill;
  • Spoke proudly of how HB 546 provided a framework for regulating produced water, also a bill that enjoyed industry support; with the produced water component of the bill being introduced in the dead of night on the last day of the session and without any opportunity for public comment;
  • Proudly proclaimed the seismic increases in oil revenue from southeast NM, talked of the massive increase in lease sales to support fracking operations; and
  • Even strongly praised the NM Oil Conservation Division for regulating this explosion in fracking operations, failing to mention that OCD’s regulation over the past nine years has generated a grand total of $64,500 in fines, with zero penalties imposed in six of the past nine years, including 2018.

When Propst finished her five minutes, she was the only speaker to not even get tepid applause, just silence.  Her report could just as well been presented by Ryan Flynn, ED of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.. This is our Secretary of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources.

Her testimony was followed by Farmington rancher Don Schreiber.  The contrast could not have been starker, as he spoke movingly and haltingly about the impact of fracking on his ranch, his animals, the community’s health, and the environment. He didn’t cite statistics; he talked about real horses, dogs, children, and how they are impacted by the massive proliferation of oil operations throughout Farmington. . If you have never been to the Four Corners, you can’t possibly imagine the degree to which oil operations dominate the landscape, at public parks, school playgrounds, behind shopping malls, and along the roads, oil rigs are everywhere. Schreiber made very clear the human impact of the industry. You could tell that this man saw the oil industry as something far more nefarious than an ATM for the state coffers and he made sure that everyone in the room understood the human cost of that revenue.

The last panel featured a scientist from the Environmental Defense Fund who dryly read from a report outlining how methane is escaping into the atmosphere at far greater levels than EPA projections, but as with the Governor and Secretary Propst, the emphasis was on recapturing the lost revenue, not preventing methane’s impact on the atmosphere. The last panel also included the highlight of the hearing, Kendra Pinto, whose testimony was so heartfelt and compelling that the audience erupted in a roar of applause, cheers and whistling when she finished.  Near the beginning of her testimony, she noted:

I was born in Shiprock, NM and raised in Twin Pines, NM. I have always known New Mexico as my home so it is appropriate that I share with you how I see this land. Growing up there was no such thing as boundaries. We were free to roam the valleys and mountains so long as we did not cause harm. This is what I find difficult to talk about in an audience such as this. Not all in this room will feel with their heart the moments I share with you. The moments rooted so deep in feelings there are no words. The love for the land must be felt. It is not only my story that should compel you; it can be heard in areas throughout the country from others who know the importance of life.”

I was able to find the words to her entire five minute presentation online and highly recommend reviewing it.  Click here. During the question and answer segment she was asked for how she felt about the tour of Chaco the day prior, she flipped the question on its head and asked for the reaction of the Congressional panelists. While all of the Congressional Reps spoke movingly about the experience, it will be interesting to see the degree to which their words translate into protection of Chaco given the GOP control of BLM, the EPA, and the Senate, and the sad reality that we too often hear politicians, ever campaigning, offer heartfelt commitment to principles and values only to vote the interests of industry. I well recall Cong. Lujan speak with passion about his commitment to affordable quality healthcare at his recent Healthcare Town Hall and tomorrow we will hear him at the GND Townhall profess his heartfelt commitment to our environment. But he has failed to sponsor either the Healhcare for All bill or the Green New Deal. Words are easy, commitments are not.

It would be unfair not to offer a shout out to Rep. Deb Haaland. Over and over again she talked of living in poverty, of her tribe and her family having been exploited by the uranium industry, of how our government offers false choices to indigenous communities:  employment and revenue or environmental and spiritual health. But you can’t have both. She spoke with great feeling, often having to pause to stifle tears. She and the other indigenous leaders clearly understand what is at stake and not just in Chaco.  While Chaco Canyon is an irreplaceable spiritual and historic sanctuary, all of NM is enchanted and our state, nation and planet can not continue to burn fossil fuel at will and expect anything but human and natural catastrophe. I’m not sure Governor Lujan Grisham, Congressman Lujan, and Secretary Propst have come to terms with that reality as their testimony focused far too much on revenue and far too little on the spirit.

Hope to see you tonight and tomorrow at 1420 Cerrillos. We’ve got lots to do.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

 

 

5 thoughts on “The US Congressional Hearing on Chaco Leaves Little to Cheer as Our Leadership Focuses on Our Partnership with G&O

  1. PLEASE NOTE–HAPPENING TODAY 4/17/19

    New Energy Economy’s Legislative Debrief, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5:30PM – 7:00PM, Wednesday, El Museo Cultural, 555 Camino de la Familia, Santa Fe (across the Railroad tracks from Farmers Market. Topics to be discussed include: Legislative Session Debrief; Unveiling our next bold initiative before the PRC to defend consumers, demand corporate accountability, and protect our environment; Upcoming Supreme Court Case on renewable energy bid-rigging practice by PNM CLICK to Email your RSVP for April 17th convening and be among the first to hear about initiatives New Energy Economy is bringing forward this Spring and Summer.

  2. I will be out of town on April 17 so won’t be able to ask Brian Egolf to commit to drinking a nice, big glass of produced water in front of the House next session or whenever it is ready. If it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough for him.

  3. I wasn’t in Santa Fe for this meeting but was able to follow it live and your summary is a very good one especially in regard to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s and Catrell Propst’s love affairs with Gas and Oil. I know NM needs the Gas and oil monies to support our education and other issues. But as you said during the session we need to move to other sources of funding. Senator R Martinez is on the Senate Judiciary and Conservation committees (chair of one) and with the recent upheaval in the leadership positions in the local Rio Arriba Cty Democratic party, there might be some changes. At least this year, I got no response from him with my emails rather than an email saying “I[Martinez] will review the legislation and I will decide how to vote”. Wondering if Kendra Pinto would like to run for office. Rep Haaland has certainly made herself very visible in NM and around the country and I’m hoping she continues.

  4. Pingback: Refugees Arriving in NM Need Your Support, Plus Our Monday Recap: US Congress & Green New Deal Come to NM, | Retake Our Democracy

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