SANTA FE, N.M. – Polling in New Mexican shows residents’ support for climate action is at all-time high, but conservation groups say dark money may be trying to influence any productive conversation.
The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association maintains it’s onboard to implement strong safeguards for future work, but according to the group ProgressNow New Mexico that messaging is coordinated through an anti-clean energy group based in Washington.
Lucas Herndon, deputy managing director of ProgressNow, says that creates a credibility gap.
“They want you to think that they’re a big part of the New Mexico process, but when they partner with these big national groups, that means that that local influence from the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association isn’t so local,” Herndon states.
The out-of-state lobbying group Power the Future was launched by a former alumni of the Charles Koch Institute, an arm of the oil industry giant.
In a tweet last year, founder Daniel Turner called New Mexico environmentalists “radical” and suggested they want to eliminate jobs in the energy sector.
Liliana Castillo with Conservation Voters New Mexico says the Oil and Gas Association is trying to rebrand itself as having more than just financial interests in the state.
She says the lack of transparency about who determines the association’s messaging creates skepticism as to whether extraction industries can be trusted.
“We’re finally having these really important conversations in our state about climate change impacts and the things that are fueling climate change, and then these industry groups are really coming in and distorting that conversation,” she states.
Herndon maintains most state residents understand the importance of the oil and gas industry to New Mexico’s economy, but at the same time support diversification.
“The Permian Basin may be one of the longest, strongest plays that we’ve seen in New Mexico in a long time, but that doesn’t mean that it’s forever, and creating an economy that New Mexico can count on year after year after year, that’s the goal,” he states.
New Mexico is reliant on surging income from the oil and natural gas sectors amid record setting petroleum production in the Permian Basin, although the governor has promised to diversify the economy.