ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An oil and gas boom in New Mexico and more than a dozen new renewable energy projects have translated into record earnings of more than $670 million for the State Land Office, boosting the funding available for public schools, universities and other trust beneficiaries.
In announcing the figures Wednesday, Land Commissioner Ray Powell said 2013 marked the biggest year in the agency’s history. In December alone, earnings reached a record $79 million.
In the last three years, Powell said, the Land Office has generated about $1.7 billion through oil and gas royalties, and revenues from grazing, rights of way and other leases with developers and renewable energy companies.
Aside from boosting the state’s coffers and reducing some of the burden on taxpayers, Powell said the uptick in development on state trust lands has also translated into jobs.
Between partnerships the Land Office has with developers of science, technology and business parks in Albuquerque and Hobbs, Powell pointed to about 5,500 new well-paying jobs.
“It’s hard to quantify in numbers like we put out today but that’s where the rubber meets the road, having good jobs for New Mexicans that pay taxes and produce products,” Powell said.
Revenues from oil and gas development and other nonrenewable uses of state trust lands are deposited into the Land Grant Permanent Fund. Some of is invested and the rest goes to beneficiaries. Revenues from grazing and other renewable uses go directly to beneficiaries.
In 2013, more than $597 million went to support public schools across New Mexico and another $21.7 million went to state colleges and universities.
The driving forces behind the record earnings have been high oil and gas prices and an increase in the volume being produced, particularly in southeastern New Mexico.
If prices remain high and developers continue drilling through June, officials said the state would be on track to break the earnings of last fiscal year by as much as $100 million.
Petroleum and natural gas production make New Mexico the third largest net energy supplier to the nation, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. In fact, New Mexico is the largest petroleum producer in the Mountain West and its share of the Permian Basin contains three of the 100 largest oil fields in the U.S.