By Penny Aucion, Carlsbad, N.M.
Carlsbad Current Argus | February 11, 2021
I was glad to see Adrian Hedden’s January 20th article ”Lawmakers ready to debate funding for oil and gas oversight in 2021 Legislative Session” which pointed out the importance of funding agencies in New Mexico to protect our environments, public lands, our health and so much more. As a concerned citizen, friend and mother I continue to worry about the unchecked pollution in South East New Mexico. I have seen firsthand that our state agencies do not have enough staff to really do their jobs and that comes down to the budget.
For more than 10 years agencies like the New Mexico Environment Department and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department have had their budgets cut. This affects every single person in Carlsbad and has affected me and my family directly. I am often critical of these agencies not doing an adequate job to protect the very citizens that they were hired to serve. The question is, “What will it take to for them to be able to make sure that oil and gas operates responsibly or to make sure that we have safe air and water?”
We need agencies like NMED to have the staff and resources to help safely open up our economy as we dig out from COVID-19, but we can’t expect them to do so without a baseline budget. I know legislators are facing big challenges when it comes to funding, but we simply cannot let these cuts continue any longer. This affects all of us and we deserve to have these agencies funded to help our health and communities.
A New Mexico Wild report showed that if the Legislative Finance Committee recommendations are adopted, the agencies will still be underfunded by 10,20 even 30%. I respectfully ask Representatives Cathrynn Brown and Jim Townsend, as well as Senators David Gallegos, Ron Griggs, and Gay Kernan to take a hard look at these budgets and support higher funder levels so we can make up for the cuts of the past, giving our agencies the tools they need to protect all New Mexicans.
This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Carlsbad Current Argus.