SANTA FE – Former oil and natural gas industry executive Ken McQueen was appointed Tuesday to lead the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
In a statement, Gov. Susana Martinez said McQueen brings a valuable background in petroleum engineering to the post and will be in charge of a state energy plan that stresses job creation and supporting national efforts toward energy independence.
McQueen previously served as vice president of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based natural gas and oil producer WPX Energy. He has managed the company’s assets in the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico and southern Colorado.
Environmentalists greeted the appointment with wariness.
“His background warrants very close scrutiny,” said Liliana Castillo, a spokeswoman for Conservation Voters New Mexico. “Coming from the oil and natural gas industry, I think it’s very hard for New Mexico to expect him to hold the oil and natural gas industry accountable for the environment.”
Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said in an email, “We have full confidence that he will put New Mexico first and manage our natural resources responsibly.”
McQueen will oversee an agency with about 415 employees across the state that regulates everything from private oil well operations to forestry practices, wildfire preparedness, and coal and copper mines.
The department oversees 35 New Mexico state parks. McQueen is expected to oversee development of a new recreational trail, the Rio Grande Trail, that will extend for 500 miles across the state.