Candidate, NM Commissioner of Public Lands

Stephanie Garcia Richard (Incumbent)
www.stephaniegarciarichard.com
StephanieGarciaRichard_1737.jpeg
  • If elected, what specific policies will you pursue in 2023 to begin rapidly transitioning our economy to achieve carbon neutrality in the timeframe set by the world’s leading scientists?

Over the last four years as Land Commissioner, I have ended future oil and gas leasing in Chaco. Thanks to our efforts to offer real tribal consultation, no new leasing or unitizations have occurred in San Juan County. In 2021, my office plugged and remediated more oil and gas wells than any other agency - saving taxpayers millions in cleanup costs. We will continue to fight against produced water and strengthen all regulatory rules. We’ve rejected two applications for blue hydrogen projects and I’m one of the only voices on the SIC championing investments in renewable energy and stopping hydrogen. We will continue our effort to go beyond tripling our renewable energy portfolio.

  • Do you agree with climate scientists that the brunt of the impacts we face due to climate change will be put on those who contributed the least emissions? (The global South, Indigenous, and low-income communities)

Yes

  • Do you agree with climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed within 8 years in order to achieve carbon neutrality in time to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees and to avoid catastrophic runaway climate disruption?

Yes

  • In your opinion, why do political leaders set benchmarks and timeframes for emissions reductions that do not comport with climate science mandates?

I think a lot of elected officials believe they are balancing the risk of climate change in relation to the state’s budget and the feasibility of the transition away from extraction. I had hoped to be even more bold in my own decision-making, but in my office, I am legally required to lease state trust land to generate revenue for the benefit of our beneficiaries – public schools, colleges, and hospitals. Oil and gas leases are the ONLY form of leases at the land office that are controlled by the legislature and held forever in lease as long as it is producing oil or gas.

  • If elected, what will you do differently than current leadership?

Since I am currently elected, I plan on continuing to push proactive, data-driven environmentalist practices as your Land Commissioner.

  • What measures will you propose and advance to ensure that economic recovery and the transition to a green economy fosters equity and economic & racial justice?

First – a Just Energy Transition Fund must be established. Second – we need to take advantage and lobby harder to funds for plugging and abandoning wells. Third – we need to diversify our revenue streams. Nothing will ever take the place of oil and gas financially – but we can create 3-5 new industry sectors to generate enough revenue to thrive in a transition.

  • If elected, will you support the creation of a Just Transition Study & Fund to identify alternative revenue sources for our state budget and allocate funds from oil and gas directly into community-driven climate mitigation and adaptation strategies? Explain.

Yes – I supported this work as a legislator and have continued this fight as Land Commissioner.

  • If elected, how will you include Indigenous and traditional land-based knowledge in the development of a sustainable economy for all of NM?

Although my office is responsible for managing 13 million acres of stolen native land, I know there is no one better at managing land than our tribes. We’ve established the first ever cultural properties rule and tribal consultation policy at the land office to ensure tribes are central to decisions made around land use at the land office. And we are currently undertaking tribal exchanges to repatriate state land back to tribes.

  • Who will you talk to about climate issues? Who advises you? What is your plan for community consultation on climate issues?

We established an environmental advisory group at the beginning of my first term. It is comprised of over 30 state and national organizations that advise us on all policy decisions related to the land, climate, water, and air. Additionally, our decision to protect Chaco Canyon from further oil and gas development, as well as our cultural survey rule and consultation policy was informed by a convened group of advocates and tribal leaders.

  • Define environmental racism in your own words and provide an example in NM

Environmental racism is when the most harmful and deleterious environmental and health effects of a practice are borne by the communities least responsible for creating them. Uranium mining and legacy issues of toxic sites on tribal land throughout New Mexico is an example.

  • What is the responsibility of your generation to the youth and future generations while in office? Explain.

Since my generation and the one prior hold an overwhelming majority of elected positions, it is our responsibility to take bold action to fix it with the help of tribes and experts.

  • A) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas development in the state of New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

Yes

  • B) Do you support placing a moratorium on new gas plant investment for utilities in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

Yes

  • Do you support nuclear energy? Why or Why Not?

No and have been the loudest voice trying to stop the proposed nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico.

  • Do you support the development of Hydrogen Production Hubs here in New Mexico? Why or Why Not?

If the discussion centered around development of GREEN hydrogen, I believe it could be a real renewable industry. But BLUE hydrogen – no. I have already denied two requests to establish blue hydrogen operations on state trust land.

  • Do you support community ownership of energy where Cities/Counties/Indigenous Nations are able to own, produce, and sell electricity to residents and keep energy dollars local?

Yes. We have been a part of community solar and public power working groups.

  • What do you believe is the fossil fuel industry/utility’s responsibility for cleanup and how as an elected official in the public office for which you are running do you plan to hold industry accountable for pollution and cleanup?

Thanks to the independent study I commissioned, we know there is an $8 billion bonding gap if we were to have to clean up all current extractive operations on state land. We know our bonding amounts are inadequate to cover this gap and are currently increasing bonding requirements to operate on state trust land but we are only 30% of the puzzle. The Oil Conservation Division's Remediation Fund continues to be used sparingly or worse, the money is taken by the legislature to pay for other things, leaving wells abandoned and unplugged. We will continue to try and get the legislature to act on bonding, a just transition, and plugging of wells.

  • Do you support utility bill forgiveness for low-income New Mexicans who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes

  • Some are saying that COVID-19 is the dress rehearsal for the climate crisis. In fact, in many places throughout the world, the two are compounding crises. What do you think we can learn from the COVID-19 crisis when addressing the climate crisis?

Because the impact of COVID-19 laid bare many things we already knew: the inequities inherent in our economic systems, the unequal impacts of the virus on patients of color and the failure of our health and government systems to properly care for/shield our most vulnerable populations. We've learned a lot about how the current economic, health and government systems which should provide support, are in fact set up to have inherent biases and racial discrimination. This is our opportunity to learn from this crisis to redesign those systems to be more just. This begins with the creation of a Just Transition away from a heavy reliance on extraction to fund our state and pursuit of revenue and energy that is renewable and sustainable.

  • Describe your previous experience working on social/health/environmental issues, do you have experience working with impacted communities to co-develop solutions? How will you use this experience to tackle the climate crisis?

At the state land office we have already begun to work on some of these issues by engaging tribal leadership on land management and conservation decision making. Through partnerships with tribes on development of our cultural protections rule, tribal consultation policy and Chaco withdrawal, we have set the standard for future decision making around energy policy at the state land office.

  • What are your ideas to loosen the grip of industry on the state legislature and strengthen our democracy?

I support more research and transparency following the money in politics as well as increased public pressure to force decision-makers to be transparent about their conflicts of interest. So far lawsuits seem to be the only way to traverse the course the legislature and agencies seem to be headed.

  • Name specific alternative sources for state revenue that you'd pursue and propose if elected

We have actively pursued renewable energy and transmission development as well as an increased focus on lucrative economic development leases (ex: Netflix) on state land. We would like to establish hemp farming on state trust land but sadly, legally are barred from marijuana farming.

  • Have you accepted any donations from fossil fuel companies or utilities? Yes/No

No

Yes