Please fund New Mexico’s regulatory agencies

By Keyley Shoup, Carlsbad, N.M.
Carlsbad Current Argus | February 11, 2021

The legislative session is in full swing and as a young adult I am beginning to follow what is happening because I know it affects me and my future. I moved back to the Permian about three years ago, and in that short amount of time I have seen many of my young friends and family members deal with aggressive and rare cancers. I am only 28, and have already seen my friends and family go through more life altering illnesses than my 80-year-old grandmother has seen in her lifetime. While I care about global warming, I care more about the lives that are taken too soon or forever altered because of irresponsible oil production. That is why I’m here. That is why I’m writing today. There are lots of bills that people on both sides are arguing about, one area that I am learning about that affects everything else is the budget process that funds our government agencies in the state.

I was not aware until recently that government agencies do a lot of work in our region to follow-up on air and water pollution that is bound to happen in the vast oil and gas industry. I also found out that they do not have enough money to do their jobs. There have been huge budget cuts in agencies that work to protect us over the last 10 years. A report by New Mexico Wild  shows  that some of these agencies are operating with vacancy rates as high as 20%, and their funding has been cut up to 30% over the last decade.

I realize we are in tough times, but community health and being good stewards of our land, water and air are important for young people like myself and future generations. Our lives quite literally depend on it. We have to fund agencies like the New Mexico Environment Department, and the Oil and Gas Conservation Division if we care about our communities and this region that I love and hope to live in for a long time.

A year and a half ago my fifty year old mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is rare in general and also rare for someone her age. Because of her diagnosis I have a considerable risk of developing it myself, which means I must be conscious of the environment around me and how I treat my body. Living in the Permian is a risk that I cannot afford to take, which means leaving my home may be in the cards for me if changes are not made. Many other people face these same decisions.

We need to have a functioning government and our region has contributed so much to the state that we deserve to have these agencies funded. Think about young people and our future and our dreams. We want to thrive, not just survive. Which is easier said than done when you’re living with things like cancer, climate change, and pandemics worsened by global warming.

This letter to the editor originally appeared in the Carlsbad Current Argus.

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