Environment, infrastructure top priority for New Mexico to spend COVID-19 relief dollars


Millions of dollars were spent plugging abandoned oil and gas wells after New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an spending bill passed in the Second Special Legislative Session of 2021.

The session was convened on December 3 primarily for the Legislature to approve the redistribution proposals, but also included House Bill 2 serving as a spending plan for the COVID-19 relief federal dollars under the ‘American Rescue Act, prior to the scheduled 30-day regular budget session. in January 2022.

In total, HB 2 has allocated $ 479 million to several state agencies, including the Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources (EMNRD) which manages oil and gas operations in the state and directs the operations. state land conservation efforts.

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Of these dollars, a total of $ 43.5 million has been allocated for environmental conservation and outdoor recreation.

The bill invested $ 3.5 million in cleaning up orphaned oil and gas wells, which are abandoned by operators, often leaving the state to pay for the repair.

Plugging abandoned wells and cleaning up the land can cost millions of dollars depending on the characteristics of the sites and wells constructed.

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Earlier this year, REMRD estimated there were as many as 700 such wells in New Mexico.

The department also received $ 20 million through HB 2 to build or renovate facilities in state parks across New Mexico, resolving a backlog of deferred maintenance projects.

“The legislature has recognized the importance of outdoor recreation and environmental protection by funding improvements to state parks and cleaning up lands affected by the oil and gas industry,” said Secretary of the Government of Canada. EMHRN office, Sarah Cottrell Propst.

“With the Governor’s signature today, we are making significant investments in our outdoor recreation economy and protecting human health and the environment. “

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Outdoor recreation is stimulated

To further conserve land for outdoor recreation, HB 2 sent a total of $ 10 million to the New Mexico Outdoor Recreation Division within the New Mexico Department of Economic Development.

That meant $ 7 million for the division’s Trails + program which provides grants to improve and renovate hiking trails statewide and $ 3 million to the Outdoor Equity Fund of New Mexico which supports program development. educational activities with the aim of seeing more children engage in outdoor leisure activities.

Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes said the dollars would help diversify New Mexico’s economy and grow its growing outdoor recreation industry, creating jobs and protecting the environment.

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“Gov. Lujan Grisham has been a champion for building the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico, ”Keyes said. “She knows this is an important industry that can create jobs in all corners of the state, but most importantly help rural communities identify outdoor recreation businesses and invest in those assets at the same time. benefit families and create jobs. ”

Outdoor Recreation Division Director Axie Navas said the funding will allow the division to grow the Trails + program 14 times and triple the reach of the Outdoor Equity Fund.

By the end of 2021, the division has awarded more than $ 506,000 in grants to 25 organizations through the Trails + program, and another has supported 57 organizations through the Outdoor Equity Fund, believing that the program supports participation in outdoor activities for 22,000 New Mexican children.

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“This funding is a long-term investment in the people and landscapes of the state,” Navas said.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Department of the Environment (NMED) has secured $ 10 million through the bill to administer its river stewardship program, which will provide grants to projects statewide. aimed at improving rivers and streams in New Mexico.

Projects receiving funding will focus on restoring wetlands, combating floods and the effects of drought, while reducing pollution by protecting wildlife.

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“By investing in our rivers and wetlands, we are making New Mexico less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and ensuring that our watersheds continue to support the cultural, economic and vital traditions of our state,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney.

“Today is also an economic victory for New Mexicans, as this funding creates and sustains local jobs in communities through the design and construction of projects on the ground. “

Infrastructure is also a key spending priority of the American Rescue Act

New Mexico’s infrastructure needs were also a top priority for Lujan Grisham and lawmakers when developing plans to spend federal relief dollars.

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The bill sent $ 10 million each towards the development of electric vehicle charging stations, as well as work at regional airports and the New Mexico roadside beautification clean-up program, through the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT).

About $ 142 million has been allocated for road projects in multiple counties, from the urban counties of Bernalillo and Doña Ana to rural areas like Eddy, Lea and San Juan counties known for industries like oil and gas.

“The ministry is grateful to lawmakers for making general appropriations and for authorizing the NMDOT to spend millions of dollars on high priority initiatives such as roadside waste, environmental infrastructure support, economic development. aviation industry and participate in projects at or near various stages of design, construction. completion, said NMDOT Cabinet Secretary Michael Sandoval.

Here is a list of road projects funded by the bill:

  • The Interstate 40 corridor in McKinley and Cibola counties.

  • A new national road to Santa Teresa in the county of Dona Ana.

  • New Mexico Route 128 from Carlsbad to Jal in Eddy and Lea Counties.

  • Route 180 from New Mexico to Grant County.

  • Bobby Foster Road in Mesa Del Sol in Bernalillo County.

  • Interstate 25 from Montgomery Boulevard to Comanche Road in Bernalillo County.

  • Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe County.

  • Pinon Hills Boulevard in San Juan County; and

  • New Mexico Highway 39 to Mosquero in Harding and San Miguel counties.

An additional $ 133 million was spent on expanding broadband access statewide, and $ 25 million was spent on housing assistance for the homeless as well as improving access to affordable housing.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Lujan Grisham signs plan to spend federal dollars on COVID-19 relief

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