On Friday, Democrat state Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard issued an executive order from her office banning any oil and gas leasing within one mile of any school.
She wrote in the edict, “I, Stephanie Garcia Richard, Commissioner of Public Lands, do hereby order and direct that the state trust lands located within one mile of a school or other educational institution shall not be leased for new oil and gas purposes until further order, effective immediately.”
It also read that “nothing herein shall restrict the State Land Office from authorizing the placement of infrastructure or permitted uses for the purpose of ensuring that appropriate public health, safety or environmental standards are met,” apparently attempting to usurp more broad power to restrict the oil and gas production under the guise of “health” and safety.”
Nowhere in the order are citations to any studies or scientific evidence to justify her action.
During a press conference, Garcia Richard said, “There is no reason to greenlight operations that produce dangerous pollutants so close to schoolkids when we have millions of acres of state lands to work with.”
“Ultimately, we need a public health buffer around schools enshrined in state law, and this order provides an opportunity to engage the Legislature, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders on developing a comprehensive and long-term solution,” asking lawmakers to pass legislation to codify this order.
Jim Winchester, Executive Director of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, wrote, “IPANM agrees that safe and reasonable setbacks are necessary between certain production sites and schools, however, we have concerns that the distance to be enforced under the State Land Office’s assumed discretionary authority is arbitrary and isn’t based on any definitive evidence of health impacts.”
“While it would have been appropriate for the State Land Commissioner to consult with industry before issuing this order carte blanche, we will work with her office on a case-by-case basis if there are particular tracts of land that might otherwise be safely and responsibly developed to provide critical revenues to improve New Mexico’s schools.”
Oil and gas revenues comprise 50 percent of the state’s General Fund, meaning further restrictions will directly harm state programs funded by oil and gas, such as education and health care.