This story is part of a collaboration with The Texas Observer, with support by the Pulitzer Center.
The fracking boom in the Permian Basin — which straddles West Texas and southeastern New Mexico — largely coincided with Republican control of much of New Mexico’s state government. Many of those elected to office in the early years of the shale rush promptly began dismantling barriers to extracting the most oil and gas at the cheapest price: Soon after winning the governorship in 2010, Republican Susana Martinez shuffled key employees in the environment department into positions where they had little expertise. During her eight-year tenure, the state legislature slashed the budget for the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, or OCD, which oversees the oil and gas industry, by 25 percent. By 2018, half of all inspection and compliance positions were vacant.
“Their budget was gutted,” said Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat and the current land commissioner in charge of overseeing drilling on state lands. “They were casting about every which way [for money]. They were a regulatory body that had no teeth and had no funding.”
Martinez’s Democratic su... Read more