Gov. Pushes Bill to Let Campaign Donors Off Hook for Carlsbad Mine Disaster

Company Officials Donated $20K to Martinez, PAC; Refuse to Pay for Needed Remediation

The Democratic Party of New Mexico on Thursday continued to question the blatant conflict of interest created by Gov. Susana Martinez promoting a bill to ask taxpayers to clean up after a brine well collapse in Carlsbad, rather than holding the private business that caused the problem responsible. Even more troubling is the special treatment being afforded to this company after their executives gave $20,000 to the governor’s campaigns and political action committee. (Full story.)

“This is another example of Martinez cronyism, plain and simple,” said Joe Kabourek, Democratic Party of New Mexico Executive Director. “The mine’s corporate executives gave thousands of dollars to the governor and, now in return, the governor is promoting legislation that will let them off the hook for millions of dollars and instead ask taxpayers to pay.”

HB 112, introduced by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, was one of a relatively small number of non-budget bills for which the governor issued an executive message in order to allow it to be considered this year by the Legislature. The governor has sole discretion over which bills receive a message. Several hundred other bills – such as campaign finance reform measures and job creation proposals – have not received messages and are not expected to.

“In light of the rampant corruption under this governor – including her own investigation by a federal grand jury and her secretary of state ending up in jail – you’d think that Gov. Martinez would want to go out of her way to try to restore public trust in her administration,” Kabourek said. “Instead, it’s business as usual for the governor. She’s continuing to take care of the needs of a wealthy few instead of protecting the homes and livelihoods of Carlsbad families.”

The abandoned brine well or mine – a salt cave into which water was pumped to create salt water for use in oil and gas drilling – has started to collapse and is threatening homes and businesses in Carlsbad. Further collapse is expected and the impact on the community could be devastating.

“We fully agree that this is a dire situation and that the safety of Carlsbad families must be our top priority,” Kabourek said. “However, before we make the very people whose homes are threatened pay the bill to fix this mess, the state must hold responsible the private company that operated the well. I & W Inc. made money off this well and then left it behind for the people of Carlsbad to deal with. That is not acceptable.”

HB 112 passed the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee on Wednesday. It now goes to the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee for consideration.