Oil, gas must pay fair share to NM’s kids

Let’s ask our leg­is­la­tors to sup­port HB 398 to #RaiseTheRate we get in roy­al­ties


I re­cently sat down for an in­ter­view with the As­so­ci­ated Press. The ar­ti­cle that fol­lowed was aptly ti­tled “State Land boss ready to ‘dance’ with oil in­dus­try.”

It’s true. I’m ready. As a life­long ed­u­ca­tor, for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and New Mex­ico’s first and only fe­male land com­mis­sioner, I stand firm that it is time to put our money where it mat­ters most: into our schools and into our class­rooms.

I was elected on a prom­ise to lever­age the man­date of the Land Of­fice to raise more money for our ben­e­fi­cia­ries, 94 per­cent of which are pub­lic schools.

To fol­low through on that prom­ise, I re­cently pushed for the in­tro­duc­tion of HB 398, spon­sored by Rep. Der­rick Lente, D-San­dia Pue­blo, to raise the amount of money that our most prof­itable oil and gas leases pay in roy­al­ties when oil and gas com­pa­nies use our land to ex­tract our re­sources.

The dance has be­gun. What kind of dance it is, how­ever, is yet to be de­ter­mined.

Oil and gas drilling ac­tiv­ity is up nearly 50 per­cent from an­nual av­er­ages over the last decade, yet the roy­alty rate hasn’t been touched in New Mex­ico since the 1970s. The Per­mian Basin, shared by New Mex­ico and Texas, is the largest con­tin­u­ous source of oil in the world. Texas charges a 25 per­cent roy­alty rate, yet we are stuck at 20 per­cent. HB 398 is not only about in­dus­try pay­ing its fair share to use our land and re­sources, it’s about the long-term sus­tain­abil­ity of our Land Grant Per­ma­nent Fund.

In fis­cal 2018, the Land Of­fice re­ceived ap­prox­i­mately $692 mil­lion in roy­al­ties from oil and gas. Af­ter hun­dreds of mil­lions in de­duc­tions, in­clud­ing the pay­ment of roy­al­ties, my of­fice es­ti­mates that in that same fis­cal year, oil and gas com­pany prof­its to­taled $3.816 bil­lion dol­lars, or 5 ½ times more than what went to our kids. I’m ask­ing for this mod­est in­crease be­cause I am con­sti­tu­tion­ally ob­li­gated to use my po­si­tion as land com­mis­sioner to raise funds for our schools.

The truth is, I prob­a­bly won’t see the im­pact of this new rate dur­ing my ten­ure. Lease rates are locked in for life. It is why our Per­mian Basin is only re­turn­ing a 13 per­cent roy­alty rate av­er­age de­spite hav­ing the 20 per­cent roy­alty rate op­tion for over 40 years.

HB 398 is about fu­ture pro­duc­tion only and guar­an­tee­ing that if any other ar­eas are dis­cov­ered to have an abundance of oil, that they are pay­ing the premium rate on leases that pro­duce at least 20,000 bar­rels a month.

So, if this is a dance, I guess it’s a Sadie Hawkins. I’m the first fe­male land com­mis­sioner, ask­ing the oil and gas in­dus­try to pay its fair share on fu­ture leases to en­sure a bet­ter fu­ture for New Mex­ico kids.

It takes peo­ple power to be suc­cess­ful. Leg­is­la­tors in the House and Sen­ate will de­ter­mine the fate of HB 398. If you are with me, and you want a bet­ter fu­ture for kids, please call or email your leg­is­la­tors to­day and ask them to sup­port HB 398 to #RaiseTheRate.

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