New Mexico senator says Space Command decision to be reviewed

By RYAN BOETEL | Albuquerque Journal | Published: January 28, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Sen. Martin Heinrich said that he spoken directly with President Joe Biden about the Air Force's decision to locate the U.S. Space Command in Alabama, and the New Mexico Democratic senator expects the matter to be reviewed by the current administration.

Heinrich, in a virtual meeting with the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning, said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his confirmation hearings committed to reviewing if the Air Force's decision.

"I don't want to go into a whole lot of details. But there's a lot of chatter on Capitol Hill about just how far that (decision) deviated from those (previous Air Force basing) decisions," Heinrich said in response to a question.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. Space Command Headquarters would be located at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque was one of six finalists for the command headquarters, as was Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, where the Space Command is temporarily located.

The command headquarters has the potential to bring hundreds of jobs and the potential for billions of dollars in spending for years to the community where it is located. After the decision to place the headquarters in Alabama was announced, lawmakers in several finalist cities raised questions about whether the decision was politically motivated.

"We are up against some really impressive communities," Heinrich said.

New Mexico's senator also said during the Chamber meeting that he would be working on legislation to help support New Mexico as the state works to decrease its dependence on the fossil fuel industry.

Biden this week announced an indefinite "pause" on all new oil and gas leasing activity on federal lands.

"It's long past time for us to acknowledge what can be an uncomfortable truth for New Mexicans," Heinrich said. "It's clear that we have to confront the climate crisis that threatens our land, our water, and our children's right to a bright economic future."

He said that New Mexico and other fossil fuel dependent states will need "revenue replacement" and federal assistance with diversifying their economies as the country tries to lessen its reliance on oil and gas and use more renewable forms of energy.

"There are two ways to manage a transition. One is to fight it out right," Heinrich said. "... that doesn't serve those workers well, to only fight the future."

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