Environmental Groups Concerned Over Proposed Permit Changes
The New Mexico Environment Department and Gov. Susana Martinez are facing criticism over a proposed revision of the permit approval process for construction of oil and gas facilities. A number of environmental organizations have spoken out against the proposed changes, saying the revisions will make the state's air quality regulations some of the worst in the country. According to a draft of the Air Quality General Construction Permit for Oil and Gas Facilities, released by NMED on Jan. 1, a general permit would allow owners to construct and operate oil and gas facilities statewide, excluding tribal land, attainment areas, Bernalillo County and the City of Sunland Park. NMED says the proposed revisions combine two existing permits and improves outdated language. But in a letter dated Jan. 5 and signed by representatives of numerous state citizen and environmental groups, the revisions are specifically decried for excluding limits to methane emissions and are said to be “some of the weakest oil and gas air quality regulations in the country.” The letter also derides NMED for only leaving a four day window between Jan. 1 and Jan. 5 for the public to review and comment on the proposed changes. Since the release of the letter, NMED has clarified that the initial Jan. 5 deadline was only for “early” public comments and the final deadline is Jan. 30. A public hearing on the matter will be held Feb. 12 at 9am in the Training Room of the Marquez Building at 525 Camino de los Marquez, Ste. 1, in Santa Fe.
Former Trump Appointee Running For Congress
A former Trump appointee who resigned amid reports of mishandling a loan has announced his candidacy for Congress. Dr. Gavin Clarkson, a Republican and former New Mexico State University business professor, was appointed deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development in the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs by President Donald Trump in June. Clarkson supervised a program that provides loan guarantees to Indian businesses. As ProPublica reported in early November, before being appointed deputy assistant secretary, Clarkson allegedly played a key role in helping a native tribe procure a loan to buy a Wall Street brokerage. The transaction would later be denounced by the inspector general of the Interior Department after the brokerage went bankrupt and the loan defaulted, leaving a $20 million liability for the Interior Department to resolve. According to the IG's report, the loan should never have been approved since Clarkson's company was not an active lender. Clarkson resigned from his position in the BIA in November, after the report was made public. He announced earlier this month that he would be running for the Republican nomination for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District seat, currently held by Rep. Steve Pearce.
PED Chief Makes Insensitive Comments
New Mexico Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski recently came under fire for saying Manifest Destiny was a principle of our country, along with “freedom” and “options” during a speech given at the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools’ annual conference in December. The comments drew harsh criticism from a number of citizen groups, including a group of tribal leaders who sent Ruszkowski a letter on Dec. 14 calling his words “disgraceful.” Manifest Destiny was a philosophical belief held by many Americans in the 19th century that white settlers were destined to expand their territory across North America. This belief was historically used to rationalize the displacement and abuse of native groups. According to a PED spokesperson, Ruszkowski met with the vice president of the Navajo Nation and other tribal leaders following the incident to apologize in person.