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Land Commissioner makes announcements regarding Otero Mesa, transmission line project

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In the waning days of his term as New Mexico State Land Commissioner, Aubrey Dunn has issued a statement discouraging future oil and gas drilling on Otero Mesa in Otero County.

He also announced that the State Land Office has finalized an easement agreement that will allow a project to transmit renewable energy in southern New Mexico and southern Arizona to go forward.

Dunn said that drilling should be discouraged in the Otero Mesa of southern New Mexico until more is done to protect water resources and plant and animal life in a region recognized for its biodiversity.

“We should discourage all drilling activity on Otero Mesa until better infrastructure and more regulators can be put in place to ensure that any oil and gas activity is done properly in order to protect the region from catastrophic environmental damage,” Commissioner Dunn said.

Dunn will serve until the end of his four-year term on Dec. 31. His successor is Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richards, who has indicated that she wants stronger environmental protections.

In a separate announcement, Dunn indicated that the State Land Office has finalized a right-of-way easement that will allow Southline Transmission LLC to move forward with its project to build a 72-mile transmission line across the southern portions of New Mexico and Arizona as a means to collect and transmit renewable energy generated in New Mexico.

Once the line is operational, it is expected to generate $12 million a year for the State Land Trust for about 35 years.