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New Mexico governor discusses oil, Chaco

New Mexico's Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwest New Mexico. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

New Mexico is the nation's second-largest oil producer, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham isn't inclined to shut off the spigots immediately.

Why it matters: New Mexico has a lot of federal land, and given her state's commitment to developing renewables, she doesn't see this as a zero-sum game.

  • "For me, the debate has been about accountability. And if I can't minimize how much is produced, it better be the cleanest … barrel of oil and the cleanest liter of gas in the world," she told Axios in an interview.
  • To those who'd like to end production in New Mexico, she says: "Texas would still be able to get that oil out of the Permian. So if your goal is to produce less oil, you're not doing enough about that."

The governor also thinks the Biden administration's protections for Chaco Culture National Historical Park will endure through a potential next GOP administration.

  • But she also noted the disparate tribal views on Chaco, with the Navajo Nation opposed to the oil and gas buffer zone.
  • "Sometimes people assume that a sovereign nation's interests [are] on the side of land, sacred sites, archeological issues … but sometimes it's their own fossil fuel industry issues."

Lujan Grisham is convinced she'll eventually get her strategic water supply proposal through the state legislature, something she sees as a direct response to New Mexico's changing climate.

  • "You can see how dry New Mexico is," she said. "I can see changes in soil quality in a 60-mile drive from Santa Fe to Albuquerque."
  • She's proposed a $500 million plan to treat brackish water from underground and oil and gas wastewater for industrial uses, but it flopped this year and has drawn some environmental criticism.
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