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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  Politics is a Gas

Politics is a Gas

Indicators: Sept. 1

September 1, 2010, 1:00 am
$8,930 is the minimum value of improper gifts given to former Farmington District Manager for the Bureau of Land Management Steven Henke by an oil and gas company he regulated.

$31,150 is the minimum sum the company, Williams Exploration and Production, has given to New Mexico state political candidates since 2004.

" Henke…made a full admission of his misconduct. Henke said [BLM New Mexico Director Linda] Rundell, whom he has known for about 25 years, had tears in her eyes when he told her."—From the June 7 investigation report on Henke by the US Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General

After receiving tips that Henke—who is now head of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, a powerful lobbying group—was “too close” to certain oil executives, federal investigators began looking into the former BLM regulator last year.

Although the OIG proved that Williams had paid for Henke’s trips to the PGA and Masters golf tournaments, and contributed thousands of dollars to his son’s baseball team, it found “no evidence of any corrupt or official acts Henke took to benefit the company” in return.

Certainly, Henke wasn’t the only one in New Mexico to be courted by Williams, one of the 10 largest gas producers in the US.

SFR’s search shows the company has donated to 63 state-level politicians in the past six years. They include state House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Santa Fe, and state Sen. Richard C Martinez, D-Rio Arriba, who each received $1,200 from Williams. The top recipient was Commissioner of Public Lands Pat Lyons, who got $2,300 from the company for his 2006 re-election campaign.

And what has Williams gotten from the state? Lucrative access to the land.

The company leases from the State Land Office at least 4,300 acres of land for oil and gas exploration, paying an average rent of 40 cents per acre. Williams’ corporate reports say it extracts some 146 million cubic feet of natural gas every day from the San Juan Basin—which it sells to the US market at an average net price of $547,500.

 

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