Former Energy Company Executive Named New Mexico Environment Department Leader
Commentary: Santa Fe, N.M. – Today, the Senate confirmed Gov. Martinez’ nominee for secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) on a 32-4 vote. Ken McQueen is a former executive of WPX Energy, an Oklahoma-based fossil fuel company. During his time with the company, WPX was a top donor to Gov. Martinez’ reelection campaign, her political action committees and her legislative allies. In response to his appointment, CVNM Executive Director Demis Foster released the following statement:
“Gov. Martinez’ selection of Ken McQueen as secretary of EMNRD is in line with her questionable track record on appointees, which speaks for itself.
We are concerned that Gov. Martinez chose a member of the oil and gas industry to hold the industry accountable for its impacts to New Mexico’s air, land, water and people – and question what message this move sends to New Mexicans. This action, among others, reinforces widespread concern about the outsized influence the oil and gas industry has in the Martinez administration.
When responding to questions from members of the Senate Rules Committee, McQueen responded as a member of the oil and gas industry rather than as a regulator who must act responsibly on behalf of all New Mexicans, demonstrating his bias and serving as a dangerous indication of how he will perform his job.
Secretary McQueen’s refusal to acknowledge the problem of methane and natural gas waste, the environmental and health concerns of the methane hotspot over the Four Corners area, and denial of the oil and gas industry’s significant contributions to it are deeply concerning. New Mexico is the top producer of oil from federal lands and number two for natural gas, however, studies show that almost one third of the $330 million in natural gas waste from federal and tribal lands nationally comes from NM alone. The first step to addressing the issues our state faces is to acknowledge them, and Secretary McQueen has failed to do that in his first opportunity to do so. This is a disheartening stumble out of the gate for the new Secretary.
We hope that Secretary McQueen will act in support of EMNRD’s mission of positioning New Mexico as a national leader in energy. Our energy future is in solar, wind and other clean, renewable energy - energy sources a majority of New Mexicans are hugely supportive of. We’ll be watching and ready to hold him accountable if he fails to act responsibly on behalf of all New Mexicans.”