In her recent Op-ed, Reverend Amstutz asserted that Governor Martinez’ “cronies” have somehow endangered New Mexican’s health and our precious water as a result of the recent changes to the Pit Rule. Such a reckless accusation is political posturing from someone who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the facts. The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) was one of the parties that petitioned the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) for modifications to the Pit Rule. NMOGA personnel attended every day of the yearlong hearing process and we witnessed firsthand the extensive technical testimony, cross examination of witnesses, and laborious deliberations by the OCC regarding their decision, all as prescribed by regulation.
The process to change the Pit Rule involved an arduous, highly complex and often contentious administrative process for over a year and a half. Those of us who participated in the process know that the Commissioners listened to the evidence, asked insightful questions, appropriately weighed the risks and benefits of change, deliberated openly and on the record, voted their conscience, and acted in good faith to fulfill their responsibilities in making limited modifications to the Pit Rule.
Reverend Amstutz appears intent on misrepresenting this issue for political purposes. In setting out to criticize our Governor, Reverend Amstutz called into question the integrity and professionalism of all three Commissioners in the process. By statute, the members of the OCC are comprised of the Director of the Oil Conservation Division, who is a career civil servant educated and trained in petroleum engineering; a representative of the current, elected Democratic State Land Commissioner; and an appointee of the Cabinet Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, who is a respected professor of petroleum engineering at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. This is hardly a group of “cronies” doing the Governor’s bidding.
Reverend Amstutz’s ill-advised, misleading statements are a disservice to New Mexicans. Our government works best when solid professional people of integrity enthusiastically enter public service and do the hard work needed to fulfill the regulatory role of State government. Unsubstantiated inflammatory statements, like those recently proffered by Reverend Amstutz, would give any good citizen pause when contemplating public service. Such speech is certainly protected by the Constitutions of both the United States and New Mexico, but we believe that debate and analysis of facts, truth and science are far superior tools for addressing complicated public policy decisions than innuendo, misrepresentation, exaggeration and political agendas.
To the best of our knowledge, Reverend Amstutz chose not to participate in the Pit Rule proceedings. Despite this fact, we welcome further substantive dialog on the Pit Rule or any other issue related to the oil and gas industry with Reverend Amstutz or any other interested New Mexican. We believe that facts, science and truthful statements are essential to successful public policy and to meaningful public discourse. We call on Reverend Amstutz to join us in seeking the facts and information necessary to enable both economic development and environmental protections for the benefit of all New Mexicans.
-Steve Henke, President, New Mexico Oil & Gas Association