Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.

© 2021 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     2/22/21
Lawmakers shoot down bill to upend state-industry collaboration
By Sherry Robinson

All She Wrote
            Two years ago, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said: “The produced water bill, I think, is going to go down as one of the greatest environmental accomplishments to come out of the state Legislature of New Mexico.”
            Produced water is the stuff that comes up during drilling – up to 8 barrels of wastewater for every barrel of oil. What’s to be done with it?
            A 2019 bill, by Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, supported industry to reuse wastewater from oil and gas production to reduce its need for fresh water. And it allowed the state Oil Conservation Division to levy fines and penalties for violations.
            Small collaborated with state regulators, as well as the Environmental Defense Fund, and industry participants to write the bill. The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and other business groups supported it; environmental groups, not so much.
            In the current session two Democrats tried to re-do the landmark legisltion.
            Recently, Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, sneered at the 2019 law, saying, “The industry-drafted produced water bill that flew through the legislature two years ago is a disaster.”
            She and Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, introduced SB 86. It would have banned the use of fresh water for drilling at depths lower than freshwater zones and required operators to use produced, recycled or treated water instead. It imposed fines for spills and assigned new duties to the Oil Conservation Division, such as worker safety and wildlife and domestic animal protection, which it hadn’t performed previously.
          The division said it would need 22 new positions, including attorneys, environmental specialists, compliance officers, and support staff, at a cost of $2.3 million a year. The state Environment Department estimated its new costs at $555,000 a year.
             Before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Norm Gaume, retired water and wastewater engineer and graduate of Hobbs High School, said the self-policing set in place by the 2019 law isn’t working.
          Industry and business groups disagreed.
          Rikkee Lee Chavez, of Marathon Oil, said experts collaborated two years ago to write the Produced Water Act, but SB 86 would undo that collaborative work. “Give the Produced Water Act a chance,” she said.
            The New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, formerly the Association of Commerce and Industry, argued that the 2019 law made New Mexico a leader in the reuse and recycling of produced water, encouraged investment in produced water recycling and reuse, and created more regulatory oversight for produced water use.
            “Senate Bill 86 eliminates most, if not all, of these benefits, and sends the wrong message to business investors,” the group wrote.
            Asked in committee why she introduced this bill, Sedillo Lopez said she had her own produced water bill in 2019, wasn’t invited to participate in Small’s bill, and voted against it.
          “We don’t know enough about fracking or fracking waste,” she said. She questioned why it’s a violation to not report a spill but not a violation to spill.
            Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto, D-Albuquerque, noted that the bill assigned the state Oil Conservation Division an additional mission and new duties and gave it three months to come up to speed.
            “I have a problem asking an agency to do things that are outside their wheelhouse,” he said. He added that if operators couldn’t use fresh water to test for leaks, “we’re asking operators to introduce pollutants. This is not proper policy for the state.”
            The last word belonged to Senate President Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque: “I’m bothered that we don’t allow the laws we passed to take effect. We have a process in place, and this bill wants to change everything. It’s a danger to the industry” and not supported by a single state agency.
            The committee tabled it unanimously.
            Southeastern and northwestern New Mexico, stung by anti-industry bills this session, should be feeling some love.

Sherry Robinson photo

Slogans are stupid; ideas needed from serious people
By Harold Morgan

New Mexico Progress
If slogans aren’t stupid, Susan Stebbing argued, they certainly can be dangerous. Slogans take complex ideas and stuff them into a word or three. The worst of slogan thinking is not thinking at all, but rather people parroting a phrase backed with no thought. Logic must stand behind these phrases.
Stebbing, British philosopher, cited “an urgent need today for the citizens of a democracy to think well,” when she wrote “Thinking to Some Purpose,” first published in 1939.
Slogans bury us. With “Stop the Steal” and more, former President Donald Trump seems the chief culprit, but he is hardly alone. The left offers plenty of choices. Remember “Resist!”
A couple of weeks ago a 40-something couple demonstrated their wacko coolness in front of a vacant Kmart in Albuquerque just south of I-40. The woman, dark haired with pony tail, waved a hand lettered sign saying, “Masks are slavery.” The man paced the sidewalk carrying a large Confederate battle flag. My opinion: To not wear a mask is stupid.
A favorite New Mexico mindless political slogan is “No Tejana Susana.” The Susana here is former Gov. Susana Martinez who was born in El Paso. Former President Bill Clinton pushed the concept of Martinez’s El Paso birthplace being morally uncertain in an Oct. 14, 2010, rally in Española, reported the Albuquerque Journal the next day. That a former president of the United States should repeat such garbage I found amazing.
In a column a few days earlier, the Las Vegas Optic editor said his neighbor posted a sign saying, “No Tejana Susana.” Noting that Diane Denish, Albuquerque resident and Martinez’s Democratic opponent, grew up in Hobbs, five miles from Texas, the Optic editor said Martinez’s birthplace should be off limits.
Behavior beyond complete submission to the slogans, in other words behavior short of complete mindlessness, provokes nasty response.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, stepped from the closed Republican corral to vote for Trump’s impeachment. Democrats loved it. Republicans did not, blowing all sorts of corks.
Nebraska’s very conservative Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, got censured by his state party. In a response video, Sasse acknowledged the unhappiness and said, “The anger's always been simply about me not bending the knee to one guy,” adding, “Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude.” 
Today in Roswell the party behavior is about the same, though over a different issue. The Chaves County Republican party asked Rep. Phelps Anderson to resign after Anderson moved his registration from Republican to decline-to-state. Anderson’s sin was supporting removing an abortion law outdated by 50 years. Why would a true conservative favor keeping a useless law on the books? Are we not better with fewer laws and more freedom?
A long time ago, around 1980, when New Mexico Republicans occupied a deep hole, the response was a campaign organization outside the party that recruited, trained and financially supported candidates. The requirements were that a potential candidate be a registered Republican, marketable (decent looking, that sort of thing), commit to doing the campaign work, and promise to vote with the Republicans on most of the big ones.
Ideas from serious people are out there, as is the truth.
The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas offers a place to start. The new issue of the center’s online magazine, The Catalyst, discusses the state of the American dream. One article is an interview with former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has started the American Idea Foundation in his hometown. The foundation identifies and promotes real-world policies demonstrating the dynamism of individuals and communities central to America.
New Mexicans need to find these ideas, borrow them and apply them here.