Dec 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

New Mexicans could test Biden's drilling pledge

Joe Biden

Joe Biden. Photo: Jim Watson / Getty Images

President-elect Biden is considering two New Mexicans to be Interior secretary, which could provide an early test to his promise to end new energy drilling on federal land.

Why it matters: New Mexico is a Democratic state where oil and gas production is crucial to the local economy, and the next Interior secretary — with both retiring Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Deb Haaland in the running — will be charged with implementing Biden’s proposed ban.

The big picture: Udall is the nephew of the late Rep. Mo Udall, a former chair of the House Interior Committee, and son of former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall. Haaland is a Native American whose candidacy is backed by tribal leaders, as Axios' Alexi McCammond reported last week.

  • While Haaland has been a leading candidate, there are increasing concerns from House leaders about reducing the Democrats' already-narrow margin in the chamber by tapping a member for the Cabinet.
  • New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, who already turned down the Interior job, said in September she would ask Biden for a waiver from any ban on new permits.

By the numbers: New Mexico accounts for 57% of federal onshore oil production and 31% of onshore natural gas production, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

  • Roughly $3 billion, or close to 40% of the state’s budget, comes from oil and gas revenue.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the late Rep. Mo Udall as a senator.

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