Governor’s hypothetical speech to the oil & gas tycoons

Is this an example of cognitive dissonance?

While New Mexico teens are urging the Governor to declare a climate emergency and to  set aside state income from the oil and gas industries to pay for the transition to an economy without greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham is meeting with oil & gas tycoons to deliver a message of collaboration. Not a word about climate disruption.

Cognitive dissonance or shrewd political calculation? In either case, it’s a deadly mistake.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham

If I was the Governor’s speechwriter, here’s what I would have given her for that audience.   (Her actual speech is reprinted at the end of this blog post.)

“Thank you for inviting me. This is an important gathering and I value the opportunity to speak with you about the serious challenges facing our state, and how we can work together to address them. In this hyper-polarized environment that we find ourselves in this country today, I want to reassure you that my door is always open to you.

I know you want to hear the bottom line from me, what I’m concerned about and what I plan to do, not political posturing to win your vote. 

I know your bottom line is making a profit for your shareholders, making a good living for those engaged in your industry, and providing a sustainable future for the industry.

My bottom line is being a responsible steward of our resources for future generations, my shareholders, and setting us on a path towards a sustainable future for my family and yours.

Our state is at a critical crossroads, and I’m either lucky or jinxed to be the Governor at this point in time.  There’s no denying the fact that climate disruption is bearing down upon us, and the window of opportunity to address this freight train is rapidly closing.

The scientists have been warning us for fifty years or more about the rising carbon dioxide levels, but we had time back then for further research and study. The timeline of our actions and inaction over the past half century to address the rising CO2 levels is brutally honest. It hasn’t been convenient to find solutions or make serious changes when, in hindsight, it certainly would have been easier and cheaper to do so.

I’m pleased that national leaders in your field (oil, coal and gas) recognize the urgency of addressing the impacts of climate disruption. They recognize that climate change is occurring, and that human activity, including the use of fossil fuels, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

New Mexico is blessed with the brains and the scientific labs that have been studying climate change for decades.  I’m thankful the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratories are at the forefront of studying climate impacts, and potential adaptation and mitigation measures. They are designing new technology which has the potential to make a profound difference in the livability of our planet for future generations. New Mexico needs to reap the benefits of transitioning this research from the laboratory to the factory and create hundreds, maybe thousands of new jobs for New Mexicans.

I’m a straight shooter.  There’s no arguing with science, and no alternative exists but to transition away from business as usual and away from our reliance on fossil fuels, and towards renewable energy.

But before you blow a gasket — hear me out.

This transition must happen quickly and I know it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt the industry. It’s going to hurt the state budget. It’s going to hurt every New Mexican. I acknowledge that with great trepidation.

If we had owned up to this reality 20 years ago, I suspect the hurt might not be so great.  Sadly, we did not. And if we don’t own up to our responsibility at this critical moment now, I’m convinced that we’re condemning our children to a very difficult life, and their children to an uninhabitable planet in the future.

The symbiotic relationship between the state and your industry has grown very tight over the years. We’ve worked together, and I hope we will continue to work together to ease the transition for both of us.

Here are some ideas to think about:

I want your families and employees who are currently working in the oil & gas industry to be at the front of the line when opportunities for retraining open up in renewable technologies.  And I want them to fill those new jobs when they come online.

I want you to be role models for the industry and show the rest of the country and the world how we can plan for this transition thoughtfully, without rhetoric or recrimination. Working together, we can forge a creative alliance that reaps untold benefits for all of us —- a win, win, win.  I need your experience and advice at the table.

I plan to enact a moratorium on fracking on lands within the jurisdiction of the state. I’m well aware of both the benefits and costs of fracking, but the health and environmental impacts of fracking concern me.  This moratorium will allow time for reasonable and informed debate at the Legislature about whether a permanent ban is warranted or what type of regulations might be appropriate to mitigate the impacts of fracking. I want the industry, the scientists, and the general public engaged in that discussion.

My bottom line — New Mexico’s future generations require that we act now. I can’t kick this ball down the road. NIMTOO — Not In My Term of Office — is no longer an option.

Thank you.

 

Governor Lujan-Grisham’s speech to the NM Oil & Gas Association in Santa Fe on October 8, 2019.

Opening joke. Good morning and hello again. I see a lot familiar faces from my talk the other week in Carlsbad, at Mayor Janway’s summit. If we keep seeing each other this often, you guys might even start to like me. So be careful. I’ll charm you. Ask the mayor.
Introduce primary theme: Collaboration. When I came down to the southeast the other week, I made a little joke about getting out of Santa Fe and spending time where the money is made, not just where it’s spent — at that old circular building up the street. But jokes aside: Thank you for coming here. It’s important to remember we are one state; we’re united. The differing viewpoints in different regions all across New Mexico, the different benefits each region brings to the table, the different livings hard-working New Mexicans make in different parts of the state — this diversity makes us stronger. I truly believe that. I think it’s true nationally, too, but with the conversations coming out of Washington, D.C., at the moment, it’s easy to lose sight of that. I think we’re a great example — meaning you all, myself, our administration, your industry. New Mexico contains multitudes, and the dialogue we’ve undertaken together this year underscores how we can always find areas of overlap. When we recognize our differences as opportunities to come together and talk, not as excuses to remain in our own separate silos, we are being good neighbors. We’re proactively doing the work to partner up, move forward together. We’re being good stewards of the New Mexican ideal of listening first, speaking second. We put ourselves in a position to develop the right kind of policies for everyone — I give a little, you give a little, and New Mexicans come first. Collaboration, so often a mere buzzword, is put into action.
We’re making progress together. But let’s talk about your progress first. A 400% increase in production over the last few years. (Not bad, huh? Not bad at all.) As I said in Carlsbad, and it’s worth repeating: This industry is the reason New Mexico educators got raises this year. It’s the reason students across New Mexico have new programs, new school supplies; it’s the reason we were able to boost our state investments in small business, rural economic development; it’s the reason we’re able to begin rebuilding behavioral health services in this state, providing care to the most vulnerable families and kids in every corner of New Mexico. These are not talking points: These are the lives of New Mexicans, the everyday struggles and needs and hopes and dreams that we as a state can provide for and meet and exceed. We have a lot of work to do to make sure our state finances — meaning the investments in our kids and our families that we have made and still need to make — have solid back-up. Reserves, rainy day funds, strategic savings — I’m not pollyanna about the way prices fluctuate, the way the winds blow. It’s our duty, in building out the economy of this state, to make the foundation as broad and sturdy as it can be. I don’t believe in luck, but we are fortunate, as a state, to have this opportunity right now to reinvest in our families, in our workforce, in our economy. And the oil and gas industry is the reason, point blank, that we have this incredible head start. That New Mexico families have greater access to high-quality services. So, once again, thank you.
With opportunity comes responsibility. I want to thank you for recognizing the responsibility that comes with the opportunity of this surge in production. The Permian Basin right now is a rock star. I want to make sure — and I know you share this goal — that this rock star doesn’t burn out, doesn’t go too far too fast. We need to work together to keep this thing rocking and rolling. And as an industry, I would say unequivocally: You have stepped up and volunteered to contribute to that effort at most every chance. Again, thank you.
An example of the industry stepping up (in a relatively small way, but symbolically): Chevron (California-based) just announced last week they’re going to donate $1 to local school projects for every tank of gasoline purchased … they’re making $75,000 available to three N.M. school districts. I’d like to see more. I’d like to encourage more of that. Help us continue to make direct investments. [They said they would make up to $5 million available to support school initiatives across the country.]
Necessity is the mother of invention. Your industry and my administration understand this concept and – together were solving problems and creating opportunities around methane and produced water. Because of our collaboration around these two topics – the world is watching, and we will deliver. Your shareholders, as well as mine, are demanding more responsible management of methane. And while We’re clear about methane: We recognize one size does not fit all . So many producers operators and investors are stepping up to work with have stepped up in this arena when our Environment Department and EMNRD set to work. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Methane mitigation is a win-win-win. I want to rack up as many of those collective W’s as we possibly can.
Flares to fuel cells. As your industry pursues e-Frac and solar powered compressor stations, we are pursuing technological advancements like Fuel cells for flares. When we put innovation to work, when we explore how we can find the best solution for as many producers and our environment as can be found, the result will be a reduction of waste methane and an increase in revenue and opportunity. Flares can become fuel cells — we’ve got the labs, we’ve got the top scientists, we have smart and dedicated Cabinet Secretaries, and you have my commitment to  in our administration, all committed to making this transition. We can turn waste into electricity. Why wouldn’t we want to lead the world in that kind of innovative problem-solving? And, let’s make those fuel cells right here in New Mexico – employing our people in the manufacturing of technologies that are deployed all over the U.S. and the world.
I know you’re on board. And if you’re not, my administration will keep working with you until you are. (You might not have my re-election bumper sticker on your car yet but we’ll get some of you there — I’m gonna work on that.) Since we launched our public input strategy around methane, this industry has been coming to us, offering to be and asking to be part of the solution. You guys recognize the responsibility that comes with growth, and that means you’re asking to have a voice as we craft regulations that are realistic, enforceable and adaptable. Senate Bill 553 was a perfect example: That bill, boosting our Oil Conservation Division, had industry support. Thank you for that. With that law now in place, we’re modernizing our systems so we can be more efficient and meet your needs. Our framework has to match your growth. For years, we were behind you. I think we’re closer to being on the same footing now — and it shows. Moving forward together is the only way.
The collaboration and innovation around produced water is just as exciting as methane. I signed into law HB 546 to protect our fresh water and incent scientific and technological advancements. The Environment Department and New Mexico State University entered into an MOU to facilitate fill the data gaps so we can write science-based regulations related to treating produced water. And, NGL Midstream pledged $1M to this effort. Thank you, NGL. Investments in the consortium created under the MOU will advance scientific and technical solutions related to the treatment and ruse of produced water generated by the industry. What’s interesting is NGL is doesn’t make a single barrel of produced water – so for all the operators in the room who are made the 1.3 billion barrels of produced water in 2018 – where’s your contribution? [Pause] Let’s see it. Let’s fund this effort and protect and sustain our fresh water supplies, expand economic development opportunities and continue to stack up the wins.
At the end of the day, when we talk about working together on produced water innovation, we’re talking about leading with science, leading with innovation: We’re going to ensure sustainable management, protection of water resources and opportunities for economic development. Another win-win-win. (Those are starting to add up…)
The same as I recognize your incredible contributions to our state, I hope you recognize my commitment to working together. I’ve talked about it a lot. You’ve heard me say it. I’ll keep saying it. I’m more than talking about it, I’m doing it because when we’re pulling together, when we avoid — as best we can — working at cross purposes. We can identify common goals and protect your investments and support expanding growth industries and protect our water and air, on and on.
So thank you for your time, thank you for having me, thank you for your willingness to listen and partner with us as we identify reach our climate and environmental goals, as we work to build fair and enforceable frameworks for the industry, as we move forward for all New Mexicans.

5 Comments

Filed under Climate Change, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Governor’s hypothetical speech to the oil & gas tycoons

  1. Penelope Foran

    great job Lora. Hope our governor sees this!

  2. Great job, Lora. Your version is definitely a speech that needs to be given.

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