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Speaking in Corrales’ La Entrada Park June 5, Congresswoman Theresa Leger Fernandez was adamant that concerted action be taken to confront climate change. “We are ground-zero for climate crisis,” she emphasized. “We need to be talking about revenue replacement” for money that would come to New Mexico as the state and nation move away from fossil fuel extraction. She was accompanied by her legislative assistant, Adeline DeYoung, who grew up in Corrales and until recently worked for Citizens Climate Lobby. In introducing DeYoung, Leger Fernandez pointed out that the young Corraleña had written her master’s thesis on states’ relying on oil and gas to fund education.

Leger Fernandez said she intended to introduce a bill in Congress to mitigate financial losses due to decreased oil and gas leasing on federal lands. “My bill is going to separate out oil and gas from federal lands, so we don’t need to worry about the loss as we transition off of that. “We’re not going to cease that drilling right away; that’s just not how it works. Fifty percent of the oil and gas produced in New Mexico comes from federal land, and we need to wean ourselves of that. So my bill is going to say, ‘let’s look at the last five years of oil and gas revenues from public lands,’ and say ‘We’re going to give you the average of those five years, guaranteed. So you’re no longer going to be worried about what we’re doing on federal land because you’re going to be guaranteed that payment.

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“That’s going to go down over time, of course, but we’d have a guaranteed paycheck that would allow us to do what we need to do on our federal land to save this beautiful place we call home. I think that’s the way we need to go; being honest about our difficulties during that transition, but also address the climate crisis. This would not touch anything on private land or state land, just on federal land.”

The District 3 congresswoman further explained the concept. “What I will be proposing is that on federal land, we de-couple the revenue that the state receives from oil and gas development on those federal lands from whatever happens on them. So the State of New Mexico would receive an average of what we have received over the last five years, and that would be received as a guaranteed payment. That would allow the federal government to decide what it needs to do to assist our climate goals on federal land without harming New Mexico. That might mean leaving it in the ground, or no more new leasing. This would not impact existing leases and existing drilling. I think that is the kind of approach we need to look at. How do we take bold action and at the same time recognize the vulnerability that New Mexico has?

“My revenue replacement bill would de-couple the federal royalties that New Mexico gets from the payments that our state gets. And one of the nice things about it is that it would be guaranteed, so the State would know in advance what it would get and could budget for it.” As it has been, she explained, those revenues fluctuated greatly, in a boom-bust cycle.

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