“When paperwork gets in the way of benefits, that’s a problem.”
So said John Bemis, Secretary-designate of New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, appointed by Governor Susana Martinez. What is significant about Bemis’ comment, made during a presentation in front of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Annual meeting on October 3, is that it represents a total change in attitude from the previous administration and is indicative of the difference one person—at the top—can make.
The change in attitude in NM presents a case study from which the rest of the US would be wise to learn.
Governor Richardson’s approach was very much like President Obama’s. He added regulations and appointed people to positions of leadership who made doing business in the state difficult—especially in regard to natural resource management. As a result, businesses moved to other states and revenues suffered.
While some people think one person can't make that much of a difference, NM is proving that couldn't be farther from the truth. A culture of growth and prosperity starts with attitudes at the top.
Governor Martinez was elected in 2010. She appointed her people to head up the various agencies—including John Bemis at the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The rules didn’t change; instead the new leadership reevaluated their application. Rather than dictating just because she can, Governor Martinez has chosen to focus where she can get the most bang for the buck. For example, the limited resources of the Oil Conservation Division can now be directed toward actual environmental issues, rather than enforcing paperwork.
As a result of the change in attitude at the top, industry is more enthusiastic about doing business in the state. As I usually do during August, September and October, I participated in three state-wide events; the annual meetings of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, New Mexico Mining Association, and New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The contrast from previous years in the outlook of the participants was startling. They are excited about the possibilities! Instead of the regulations being used like a hammer to beat down all development, departments are now looking to help folks work within the regulations. If the regulations are excessively punitive or inappropriate, industry is encouraged to submit proposed changes—which they’ve done and which are being considered. Things are picking up in New Mexico.
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