Haaland pushes for Green New Deal

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One of New Mexico’s new congresswoman, Deb Haaland, who will represent the counties of Bernalillo, Torrance, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Valencia, and about three-fourths of Albuquerque, has embraced the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and is already taking on the energy industry in Washington., D.C.  

Her bold moves have raised eyebrows in New Mexico, home to one of the largest oil and gas production regions in the world.

Deb Haaland is a 35th generation New Mexican who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage. She is one of the first Native Americans elected to Congress and has been selected to represent the freshmen class in leadership roles.

“I’m excited to take on the challenge of representing a historic freshman class on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee,” Haaland said. “I am also honored to have been elected House Democratic Region VI Whip and appointed Deputy Whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

As part of her “bold agenda,” she said she is taking a strong stance against the oil and gas industry by pushing for 100-percent renewable energy. She has signed on to the Sunrise Movement to champion the Green New Deal, a progressive movement that has protested Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, slated to resume her position as the next Speaker of the House.

“As a Native American women who’s (sic) ancestral homeland is under attack from the Fossil Fuel industry: I 100% support a Green New Deal and a Congressional Climate Commission,” Haaland tweeted Nov. 13.

Haaland has also signed onto the “People’s Demands for Climate Justice” Dec. 5, which calls for a phase-out of government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and pledge to divest fully from fossil fuels by 2020. It also pledges to an outright and immediate ban on fracking and adopt a global moratorium on new fossil fuel exploration and extraction techniques starting this year.

The pledge also calls for an international moratorium on coal projects effective immediately.

“Many of our families in New Mexico are struggling. That is why I pushed a bold platform prioritizing education, child care, healthcare, and a Green New Deal that would create long-lasting jobs for my state,” Haaland said in a written statement to the Monitor.

“By giving our people more support and more opportunity, we can improve our communities. This appointment gives New Mexico a seat at the table and I will use it to make sure that the policies New Mexicans voted in this election will be at the forefront of House strategy in coming sessions,” she said.

The Green New Deal is spearheaded by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The proposal, which is currently a draft resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives, calls for the creation of a special committee tasked with a plan to get 100 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable energy sources 10 years after the plan is approved by Congress.

The resolution speaks of creating a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” toward achieving a carbon neutral footprint. Though a date for reaching the goal has not been set, the plan, the resolution calls for a completed plan by Jan. 1, 2020. It hopes to achieve this goal by way of massive input from all levels of government, including state, local and tribal governments.

Rough outlines in the resolution call for providing a job guarantee program for those in the fossil fuel industries and the diversification of area economies, “with a particular focus on communities where the fossil fuel industry holds significant control over the labor market, to ensure workers have the necessary tools, opportunities and economic assistance to succeed during the energy transition.”

New Mexico’s gas and oil industry has taken notice of this plan, especially since Haaland became one of 15 House Democrats to sign on to the initiative.

Representatives of the state’s oil and gas industry said Haaland and other promoters of the plan are making a mistake.

The U.S. Department of the Interior released a report earlier this month showing that underground layers in the Delaware Basin, located within the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico and Texas, contain 46.3 billion barrels of oil, 281 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 20 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

The finding makes the area the largest region for recoverable reserves in the world.

“It seems that this Green New Deal is a political tool and not a realistic policy proposal,” New Mexico Gas and Oil Association Spokesman Robert McEntyre said. “The idea that we would all of the sudden shut down our No. 1 industry just to create a new industry that doesn’t have the same tax structure, the same royalty structure that oil and gas does, is really reckless.”

McEntyre said if the plan were ever implemented there could be severe economic consequences for New Mexico and other oil and gas producing states.

“First of all, the oil and gas industry unquestionably benefits every New Mexican,” McEntyre said. “More than one third of the state budget comes from oil and gas production. It seems shortsighted to favor other industries over the industry that is making New Mexico run, and providing New Mexico with so many opportunities. “

McEntyre also said, however, that New Mexico should by all means pursue alternative energy opportunities, but include oil and gas in the equation.  

However, he said Haaland and other New Mexico politicians that favor the Green New Deal need to educate themselves and be willing to make compromises.

‘It’s not surprising that we have proposals in areas that don’t have oil and gas development folks that don’t understand what oil and gas development provides to the economy,” McEntyre said. “Miss Haaland lives in Albuquerque and the nearest oil or natural gas well is probable two hours away, and four hours to the Permian. We welcome the opportunity to describe our issues to her, outline our benefits to her that our industry provides.”

Haaland said New Mexico offers a variety of economic options that she thinks could fill the void to replace oil and gas, including legalizing marijuana.

“Here’s what we know: because of climate change, New Mexico is facing historic droughts that are only getting worse. New Mexico has more than 300 days of sun per year, and we can use that sun to bring thousands of jobs to our state,” Haaland said. “We can work on a renewable energy economy, because New Mexico has the talent and diversity to do so. I want more jobs for New Mexicans, not fewer. We should diversify our economy: legalize cannabis, move toward a renewable economy and not rely on one industry for the future of our children.”