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310 Old Santa Fe Trail,
Santa Fe NM 87501

Phone:
505-827-5760

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State Land Office Oil and Gas Lease Accountability and Enforcement Program Efforts ‘Just the Tip of the Iceberg’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 19, 2020

Contact:

Angie Poss, Assistant Commissioner of Communications

505.470.2965

aposs@slo.state.nm.us

State Land Office Oil and Gas Lease Accountability and Enforcement Program Efforts ‘Just the Tip of the Iceberg’

Program meant to encourage accountability and stewardship of state trust land, #DontTrashTheTrust

SANTA FE, NM – In a press conference today, the New Mexico State Land Office announced an historic, agency-wide programmatic approach to accountability and enforcement with regard to oil and gas operations on state trust land to ensure lease holders honor their contractual promise to operate and close out responsibly. Oil and gas leases on state trust land are set by state statute and require compliance with State Land Office rules, including remediating spills and restoring the land to its original condition once a lease has expired (19.2.100.66 – 67 of the New Mexico Administrative Code).

The leases under enhanced review are those which pose an immediate environmental threat to the long-term health of state trust land—state land held in trust for New Mexico’s public schools, hospitals, and universities. The specific accountability measures under scrutiny by the Accountability and Enforcement Program, led by the State Land Office Legal Division, include:

  • Spill clean-up of oil, gas, produced water, and other extraction by-products
  • Surface reclamation, specifically of site infrastructure including wells, pads, pits, tanks, pipelines, and roads
  • Recovering royalty payments for oil and gas production in trespass

To date, the program has resulted in the following actions:

  • 9 oil wells plugged (Lea County – 3, Chaves County – 4, Eddy County – 2)
  • 9 lease sites reclaimed and cleaned-up, representing over 7,000 acres across Lea, Chaves, and Eddy Counties
  • 9 enforcement lawsuits filed against bad actors that refused to take action (6 oil and gas lessees, 2 business lessees, 1 salt water disposal well operator)

“From Day One of my administration, I have promised a culture shift in the Land Office to hold industry accountable for the clean-up of your state trust land. This Program represents just the tip of the iceberg in what will be a long process to do just that,” Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard said. “The protection of our land, water, air, and wildlife is the primary focus of these efforts. The restoration of over 7,000 acres of state trust land is a huge win. The level of activity in the Permian Basin results in far too much abandoned infrastructure, contamination, and debris – and we are doing everything we can, as fast as we can, in order to protect these areas so that they can benefit future generations.”

The Program is also auditing business leases, salt water disposal easements, and other non-oil and gas related instruments for compliance. Work on these efforts began with site inspections by field staff beginning in early 2020.

“The Accountability and Enforcement Program is coordinated by the Legal Division, which I oversee, but it is truly an agency-wide operation,” State Land Office General Counsel Ari Biernoff added. “We have field staff on the ground inspecting sites for contamination, along with staff conducting audits of sites via high frequency satellite imagery, and then bringing that back to our team of lawyers and experts for enforcement of contractual obligations.

“We are using all of the tools and data at our disposal in order to hold companies to account in hopes of encouraging industry to do what is right by this land and what is right for our environment. The majority of operators are acting responsibly but for those that aren’t or haven’t, we are being proactive in order to ensure they return the land back to its original state for the benefit of the citizens of New Mexico and for the beneficiary institutions that we support.” 

View the Press Conference Presentation Slides.

Under the leadership of Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, the New Mexico State Land Office has seen back-to-back years of revenue over $1 billion. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The money earned from leasing activity supports 22 beneficiaries – New Mexico public schools, seven universities and colleges, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, three hospital, water and land conservation projects, and public building construction and repair.

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month

Gu’waa’dzee! Hi’na’mé bur’ai’kaa, yaa’kaa hanuu é hopunii waa’sht’ii. Hello! My Keres name is “butterfly” and my clans are Big Corn and Little Oak. I am from the Pueblo of Laguna and the Mescalero Apache Tribe. My parents are Ryan and Melissa Riley. My maternal grandparents are Evelyn Robinson from the Big Mouth family (Mescalero and Chiricahua bands of Apache) and Rudolfo Guerra. My paternal grandparents are Elaine and John Sanshu (Laguna and Acoma Pueblo), and Allen Riley, Sr. (Laguna Pueblo) and Angela Riley (Diné). I have four brothers and three sisters, a niece and nephew from my siblings, and countless other nieces and nephews from my cousins. I have so many aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, that every time I got together with  my family pre-COVID 19, I always learned of a new relative, “This is your grandma from this side of the family.”  The way my husband, Justin (Laguna Pueblo, Hopi, and Maidu), grew up is beautiful- the community, the ceremonies, the family that never stops growing or giving.

November is Native American Heritage Month. It’s a time to reflect on the contributions of Indigenous people to this state and to this country. It’s a time to also reflect how we can do better by the Indigenous people whose land we have stolen and occupied. As an appointee, I thought that I could separate who I am and my lived experiences from the job I am asked to do. That is impossible in this job. At the land office, I am reminded every day this agency was not created to serve Indigenous people but rather, with the intent to keep Indigenous people from managing our own land. Over the years, I have heard, “You lost the war, this is what our country needed to progress” or “Why do you need to always live in the past?” Indigenous people are not antiquated relics of a romanticized Wild West land grab.

Indigenous people are very much present and we have survived brutalization, genocide, and displacement for centuries, despite being severely restricted when accessing land to care for it, to hunt, or to visit sacred areas. As climate change becomes more urgent, the reliance on Indigenous knowledge increases; the irony is that Indigenous people are often targeted with state sanctioned violence when landscapes and water are being defended by its original stewards and allies. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Philippine woman and activist, wrote, “For generations, we have accumulated intimate and detailed knowledge of the specific ecosystems where we live. We know every aspect of the plant and animal life, from mountain-tops to ocean floors.” In California, where we saw unprecedented fires claim lives, homes, and businesses, displacing thousands of families, we also saw the state essentially plead with the Karuk people to help guide controlled burns to reduce the harm and plan for the future. The irony, again, is that when we are displaced or restricted in land access, we lose our ability to steward the land to preserve its resources. The Karuk people were legally banned from cultural practices that include land maintenance, a framework that virtually universal for Indigenous people across the globe. The same is true for Indigenous peoples in the Southwest. Pueblo and Diné (Navajo) people consider Chaco Canyon and Bears Ears sacred landscapes.

I am so proud to follow the leadership of Commissioner Garcia Richard, who signed the executive order to halt new oil and gas leasing in the northwest corner of the state. We are developing a tribal consultation policy that will guide the land office into the future of true tribal collaboration and community input. Through my time in the land office, I have new, deeper appreciation and unconditional love for my own culture and language, and the tribal leaders who must play the roles of spiritual leaders, economic developers, negotiators, and policy experts in their short terms of office.
This Native American Heritage Month, and every day after, I humbly ask you to reimagine a future where we take better care of our land and water, thereby securing a future for our students, our beneficiaries, and their families. 

Rachael Lorenzo

New Mexico State Land Office, Assistant Commissioner of Engagement | Tribal Liaison

State Land Office Press Conference: Oil and Gas Lease Accountability and Enforcement Program

MEDIA ADVISORY

November 18, 2020

Contact:

Angie Poss, Assistant Commissioner of Communications

505.470.2965

aposs@slo.state.nm.us

State Land Office Press Conference: Oil and Gas Lease Accountability and Enforcement Program

Program meant to encourage accountability and stewardship of state trust land, #DontTrashTheTrust

SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico State Land Office has launched an historic, agency-wide programmatic approach to accountability and enforcement with regard to oil and gas operations on state trust land to ensure lease holders honor their contractual promise to operate and close out responsibly. Oil and gas leases on state trust land are set by state statute and require compliance with State Land Office rules, including remediating spills and restoring the land to its original condition once a lease has expired (19.2.100.66 – 67 of the New Mexico Administrative Code).

The leases under enhanced review are those which pose an immediate environmental threat to the long-term health of state trust land—state land held in trust for New Mexico’s public schools, hospitals, and universities. The specific accountability measures under scrutiny by the Accountability and Enforcement Program, led by the State Land Office Legal Division, include:

  • Spill clean-up of oil, gas, produced water, and other extraction by-products
  • Surface reclamation, specifically of site infrastructure including wells, pads, pits, tanks, pipelines, and roads
  • Recovering royalty payments for oil and gas production in trespass

The Program is also auditing business leases, salt water disposal leases, and other non-oil and gas related leases for compliance. Work on these efforts has been underway since early 2020, and the successes to-date represent only the tip of the iceberg expected to come of the Accountability and Enforcement Program.

Join us for a press conference as we announce the Accountability and Enforcement Program on Thursday, November 19th, at 11:00 am (MST).  

Press Conference Details

Who: The New Mexico State Land Office, Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, General Counsel Ari Biernoff

What: Accountability and Enforcement Program Overview and Successes

When: Thursday, November 19th, 2020

11:00 am – 12:00 pm (MST)

Where: Virtual Press Conference Held On Zoom
Registration Required

Under the leadership of Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, the New Mexico State Land Office has seen back-to-back years of revenue over $1 billion. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The money earned from leasing activity supports 22 beneficiaries – New Mexico public schools, seven universities and colleges, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, three hospital, water and land conservation projects, and public building construction and repair.

December 11, 2020 – State Land Trusts Advisory Board Meeting

The New Mexico State Land Trusts Advisory Board will hold a public meeting on Friday, December 11, 2020, at 10:00 a.m., and continuing thereafter as necessary, via audio and video conference due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The public may join the meeting through the following link: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/844766013.

The public may also dial into the meeting via phone: (646) 749-3122; Access Code: 844-766-013. You may sign up for public comment in advance by calling (505) 827-5761 or emailing ashaw@slo.state.nm.us.

Any change to the location or time of the meeting will be posted with a final agenda on the SLO webpage (www.nmstatelands.org) at least 72 hours prior to the date and time specified in this notice.

The agenda includes: Call to Order, Roll Call, Welcome, Approval of Agenda, Approval of October 15, 2020 Minutes, Agency Update, Financial Report, Division Updates, Questions and Answers, Public Comments, Closing Remarks, Closed Executive Session, Adjournment. 

The agenda is linked below. To request a hard copy, contact Alysha Shaw at (505) 827-5761 or ashaw@slo.state.nm.us.

If you are an individual with a disability and you require assistance or an auxiliary aid (such as a sign language interpreter) to participate in any aspect of this meeting, please contact Alysha Shaw by Monday, November 30, 2020 at (505) 827-5761 or ashaw@slo.state.nm.us.

Download the agenda here.

Making the Business Case for Soil Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 9, 2020

Contact:

Isabelle Jenniches, NM Healthy Soil Working Group Co-Founder 

505-231-8471 (cell)

NMhealthysoil.org

Angie Poss, Assistant Commissioner of Communications

505.470.2965

aposs@slo.state.nm.us

Making The Business Case For Soil Health

SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico State Land Office and the NM Healthy Soil Working Group have teamed up to offer a series of informative webinars for state trust land agricultural lessees and the greater agricultural community. The second in the series will take place Tuesday, November 10, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (MDT) on Zoom. Titled “Greater Profitability through Soil Health,” it will feature Gregg Simonds of Open Range Consulting.

The State Land Office leases nearly 9 million acres of state trust land to ranchers, farmers, and agricultural producers across the state. The webinar series with the Healthy Soils Working Group is part of a continued engagement effort to provide soil health resources and information to nearly 3,500 grazing lessees.

“My family operated ranches on the eastern plains and northern mountains of New Mexico, and I understand that these operations can, at times, be under a lot of strain,” Commissioner Garcia Richard added. “Whether it is drought and climate change, or changes in production prices, or just keeping up with new science – we want our agricultural lessees to know that we care about them and want to help them succeed at every turn.” 

Gregg Simonds is known for his critical work with ranchers and government agencies to find common solutions toward healthy lands and economically viable cattle operations. He developed cutting edge land monitoring methods using remote sensing technologies to provide a statistically valid and economically feasible means to assess rangeland and riparian habitats. As part of the Humboldt Ranch management team in Elko, Nevada, Simonds has embraced the opportunity to work with state and federal agencies, and other partners, to manage the ranch for profitable livestock production while providing habitat for fish and wildlife and recreational opportunities for the public.

“I believe that the next step for conservation is to bring it into the marketplace,” Said Simonds. “There’s the notion that soil health is important, but we need the technology to underpin the market and create trust between buyer and seller. Measuring bare ground is a simple and effective metric for soil health that determines how well you manage it and how well you can market it.”

Earlier this year, the Healthy Soil Working Group released a report prepared by the Crossroads Resource Center analyzing statewide data on agricultural income, production expenses, personal income, and health. The study New Mexico Farm & Food Economy found that over the last 50 years NM farmers spent $14 billion more on animal feed than they sold, and $10 billion buying agrochemicals, petroleum products and agricultural inputs sourced out of state each year. Due to these ever increasing costs, there has been no gain in net cash income for farmers over the last 50 years –in fact 70% of New Mexico farms and ranches report a net loss. The upcoming webinar will demonstrate that building soil health is an opportunity to gain independence from costly inputs and makes good business sense, with co-benefits for environmental and human health.

“We have an opportunity to meld hunger mitigation, environmental resilience and economic development by redirecting dollars spent on costly inputs from out-of-state and investing instead in soil health,” said Christina Allday-Bondy, Co- Founder of the New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group.

The State Land office collaboration with the NM Healthy Soil Working Group is not the first instance of the agency engaging with other organizations to offer informative webinars to agricultural lessees. Three drought related webinars took place in the summer of 2020 in partnership with the Quivira Coalition, the Coalition to Enhance Working Lands, and the Western Landowners Alliance.

“Greater Profitability Through Soil Health,” takes place Tuesday, November 10, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm.

Registration is required for the webinar, and can be found online here. Those wishing to access the webinar by phone can call 505-231-8471 to register. 

Under the leadership of Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, the New Mexico State Land Office has seen back-to-back years of revenue over $1 billion. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The money earned from leasing activity supports 22 beneficiaries – New Mexico public schools, seven universities and colleges, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, three hospital, water and land conservation projects, and public building construction and repair.

The NM Healthy Soil Working Group is committed to the success of the state’s farmers and ranchers, knowing that building soil health creates co-benefits including rural and state economic gains, water availability and quality, more nutrient dense food leading to better public health, carbon drawdown and other key ecological services. Formed in the fall of 2018, the Working Group succeeded in passing the NM Healthy Soil Act by assembling an extensive coalition of hundreds of food and agriculture related organizations, farms and ranches, consumers, health practitioners and environmental groups.

State Land Office and Healthy Soil Working Group Team Up for Webinar Series

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 13, 2020

Contact:

Angie Poss, Assistant Commissioner of Communications

505.470.2965

aposs@slo.state.nm.us

State Land Office and Healthy Soil Working Group Team Up for Webinar Series

SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico State Land Office and the NM Healthy Soil Working Group have teamed up to offer a series of informative webinars for state trust land agricultural lessees and the greater agricultural community. The first in the series will take place this afternoon, Tuesday, October 13th, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (MDT) on Zoom. The first webinar in the series, titled “Groundwater, Soils & Management: Complexities and Connections” will feature Dr. Kate Zeigler of Zeigler Geologic Consulting, and Emily Cornell, owner of Sol Ranch outside of Wagon Mound, NM.

Dr. Zeigler is the owner and senior geologist of her Albuquerque based consulting business. Born in Montana and raised in Texas, she came to New Mexico in 1999 to continue her studies of geology, earning her Ph.D from the University of New Mexico. Kate found her calling using her skillset to provide information about groundwater resources to agricultural producers and rural communities.

“The webinar title, ‘Complexities and Connections’ really only scratches the surface when we consider what New Mexico farmers and ranchers face in their daily lives. In my career, I’ve focused on the challenges of groundwater resource management and now am learning to think about the connection to the soil,” Dr. Zeigler said. “What I hope people come away with after the webinar is an understanding of how complicated this system is and how to better assess how they use these resources in their operations.” 

Emily Cornell runs a cow-calf, grass-fed beef ranch. It’s part of the same ranch she grew up on and where her parents still run a cow-calf operation. Emily returned home to lease part of her family’s land after receiving her B.S. in Environmental and Organismic Biology from Ft. Lewis College in Durango, CO and then working for the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah as a range technician.

“Sol Ranch strives to manage for biologically diverse ecosystems with healthy soil by using innovation in our approach to grazing management, infrastructure development, monitoring, and collaborating with scientists and neighbors,” Emily said. “I want to share my experience with this approach to range management along with some ideas I’ve gained through my continuing education in land management with others in the state who may benefit.”

The State Land Office leases nearly 9 million acres of state trust land to ranchers, farmers, and agricultural producers across the state. The webinar series with the Healthy Soils Working Group is part of a continued engagement effort to provide resources and information to nearly 3,500 grazing lessees.

“My family operated ranches on the eastern plains and northern mountains of New Mexico, and I understand that these operations can, at times, be under a lot of strain,” Commissioner Garcia Richard added. “Whether it is drought and climate change, or changes in production prices, or just keeping up with new science – we want our agricultural lessees to know that we care about them and want to help them succeed at every turn.” 

The collaboration with the NM Healthy Soil Working Group is not the first instance of the State Land Office engaging with an organization to offer informative webinars to agricultural lessees. Three drought related webinars took place in the summer of 2020 in partnership with the Quivira Coalition, the Coalition to Enhance Working Lands, and the Western Landowners Alliance.

The second webinar in the series with the NM Healthy Soil Working Group, “Greater Profitability Through Soil Health,” will take place Tuesday, November 10th, from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

Registration is required for each webinar, and can be found online here. Those wishing to access the webinar by phone can call 505-231-8471 to register. 

Under the leadership of Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard, the New Mexico State Land Office has seen back-to-back years of revenue over $1 billion. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The money earned from leasing activity supports 22 beneficiaries – New Mexico public schools, seven universities and colleges, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, three hospital, water and land conservation projects, and public building construction and repair.

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