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New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard

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(The Center Square) – A letter from a New Mexico congresswoman to that state’s public lands commissioner about a federal ban on oil and gas leases raises several questions about the economic impact the move will have on the state’s economy.

President Joe Biden, shortly after taking office in January, put what he called a “temporary” moratorium on selling leases for oil and natural gas mining on federal lands.

Congresswoman Yvette Herrell sent a letter last month to New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard expressing concern over the ban.

“On its own, this will have an extremely detrimental impact on our state’s economy and general fund, but I fear these implications will be exacerbated by additional impacts on leases on lands under the management of your department,” Herrell wrote. “I have had several constituents reach out to me concerned that access to their state leases, day to day operations on and the development of those leases will become increasingly difficult if the leasing moratorium on federal lands continues.”

Herrell also asked Garcia Richard what input she had given the U.S. Department of the Interior on the matter.

Garcia Richard said the federal government had not consulted with her but, “We hope to be involved in future discussions related to easing the potential impacts of these orders on the state.”

Larry Behrens, a director with Power the Future, an oil and gas industry trade group, said “The response from Commissioner Garcia Richard shows how extremely out of touch she is. The federal order is months old now and Garcia Richard admits her office has not reached out at all to get any clarification.”

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is a former congresswoman from New Mexico and a former chair of the state’s Democratic Party. Garcia Richard, also a Democrat, served three terms in the New Mexico House of Representatives before being elected to her current office in 2018.

Herrell also noted that 40% of the state’s $7.2 billion general fund comes from oil and gas leases and 94 percent goes to fund public education. Garcia Richard responded by saying her office had collected more than $1 billion in oil and gas leases and royalties each of her first two years in office, but also called that a “shortsighted funding mechanism.”

Garcia Richard also said she wants to diversify her offices revenue stream.

“The question for Commissioner Garcia Richard is simple,” Behrens said. “She deceitfully takes credit for the money generated by the oil and gas workers she wants to leave unemployed, but exactly how much state revenue has her office delivered from renewables?”

This article originally ran on thecentersquare.com.

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