(The Center Square) – As the administration of President Joe Biden threatens to end new oil and gas leases on federal lands throughout the country, a New Mexico lawmaker also wants to halt fracking in the state. Critics say the measures would lead to massive job losses as well as significant declines in tax revenue.
A bill filed by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, would require the state to stop issuing new permits for fracking operations in New Mexico for four years while state government considers new regulations for the practice.
Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting high pressure liquid into the ground to force open existing fissures to extract oil or gas.
Similar bills to Sedillo Lopez's were filed in 2019 and 2020 and failed to pass.
Larry Behrens, western states director of Power the Future, a nonprofit that aims to improve the national energy conversation, said the state couldn't afford to lose the tax revenue or jobs that such a ban would do.
"It is extreme arrogance to call a massive moratorium on fracking reasonable because it’s for a limited time," Behrens said. "We would suggest Senator Sedillo Lopez ask our schools to cut funding by over 30 percent every year for the next four years and then explain to our families how it’s 'reasonable.'"
The oil and gas industry funds about 40% of the state's budget, which includes schools.
Behrens also criticized the senator over her initial support of New Mexico's Energy Transition Act, which sets a statewide renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030 for New Mexico’s investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives, and a goal of 80 percent by 2040.
"This is from the same Senator who now admits the Energy Transition Act is broken," Behrens said. "She didn’t listen to the warnings in the past before supporting that disastrous law and now she’s not listening to reality."
Sedillo Lopez has joined two other Democratic lawmakers in seeking changes to the act after energy companies sought rate increases from consumers to help pay for its new regulations.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing Wednesday night that Biden is still committed to ending new oil and gas leases on federal land, something critics also said would lead to thousands of job losses and threaten U.S. energy independence.