Editor’s note: This column follows another commentary on the subject by former N.M. Land Commissioner Ray Powell. Aubrey Blair Dunn wrote it after ProgressNow New Mexico and the Western Environmental Law Center tweeted Powell’s column and incorrectly tagged Dunn, a candidate for a N.M. Senate seat and the son of current Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, for criticism instead of his father.
COMMENTARY: It appears that ProgressNow New Mexico and the Western Environmental Law Center have the wrong Aubrey Dunn (NMPolitics.net has retweeted the same), but because I was tagged, I am happy to explain why I oppose the proposed BLM rule — as well as why my opponent Bill O’Neill is wrong about what is best for New Mexico, just like former Commission Powell, when it comes to the BLM venting and flaring rule.
My opponent in the State Senate District 13 race, Bill O’Neill, has signed on to a letter supporting the job-killing, economy-depressing, state-revenue-decreasing BLM venting and flaring rule. Unfortunately, I think ProgressNow’s, Ray Powell’s and Bill O’Neills’ understanding of jobs, small business and the economy can be summed up in the Reagan quote about the big government view on the economy — “[i]f it moves, tax it. If keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
That’s what this venting and flaring rule proposes to do. It takes a failure of the BLM to timely do its job (because of bureaucracy and overregulation) to grant easements for pipelines (so there is no need to vent and flare) and shifts the burden to the industry.
The great fallacy is that there is no cost to doing this and it won’t have any negative economic effect on the industry (because obviously those oil companies are just throwing away money for no good reason). To be sure, big companies in industry are generally favored in regulation, they can better survive the regulation, and it tends to get rid of the pesky upstart small-company competition. (This is also why you very rarely if ever hear Donald Trump bloviating about deregulation and why everybody should be voting for Gary Johnson, no matter D or R, instead).
This new rule will be hardest on the small companies; they will not all be able to afford to comply with the new regulation while they wait years for the BLM to get them easements. All companies will shut-in some wells and they will have to lay people off — or, even still, some will go bankrupt, causing even greater job loss and drag on the economy.
So if you hurt the companies by overregulation or unnecessary regulation, instead of streamlining the BLM by requiring that they do their job in a timely fashion, you will do damage to New Mexico in two ways. One, you will be taking jobs out of the economy. And two, you will be decreasing the revenues for schools and hospitals because the companies will invariably shut-in wells to avoid the costs, and there will be fewer companies operating in the field — causing, again, less production.
It really is the economy (stupid), and it is always surprising that there are those who believe that you can tax your way into prosperity. But fortunately for New Mexico, the voters already rejected this radical environmental philosophy when it comes to former Commissioner Powell’s view of more regulated land management, opting instead to elect someone interested in Better Land Management. And why I hope that voters in Senate District 13 will elect someone actually interested in more jobs for New Mexico and a better economy, rather than regulating small companies out of business, losing jobs, and decreasing the state revenues available for education and hospitals.
Aubrey Blair Dunn is an agriculture and natural resource lawyer in Albuquerque. He is currently running for N.M. Senate in District 13. He is the grandson of longtime state Senator Aubrey L. Dunn, Sr. and the son of Aubrey L. Dunn, Jr., the current New Mexico land commissioner.