New Mexico ranked last for methane emission prevention
New Mexico State Land Commissioner-elect Stephanie Garcia Richard said she plans to fight methane waste when she takes office.
She said stricter regulations could mean more state funding for public services such as schools and hospitals.
“We lose on average over $1 million in revenue every year in the State Land Office due to flaring and venting of methane gas during oil extraction,” she said. “That is hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for our schools and hospitals.”
Garcia Richard said her office plans to work with the New Mexico legislature to address gas emission loss and other areas where New Mexico is losing revenue.
“My office is supporting a series of legislative changes to address these concerns along with a few other areas New Mexico fails to make the most money for the beneficiaries,” she said.
“Although it will require action by the legislature and a combined effort by governor, her relevant agencies and the State Land Office to require methane capture, I wholeheartedly support any change that protects our land and air and increases revenues into the Permanent Fund.”
New Mexico was ranked last in a recent study that compared eight oil-producing states’ regulations when it comes to methane emissions and potential air pollution.
Titled “The State of Methane” the study was released on Wednesday by the Wilderness Society and Taxpayers for Common Sense, including information gathered during visits to various New Mexico oil and gas operations where staff from D.C.-based Earthworks said they observed numerous leaks using infrared cameras.
Earthworks’ New Mexico Organizer Nathalie Eddy said the organization filed six complains with the New Mexico Environment Department against Hilcorp operations in the San Juan Basin.
Eddy said the state did nothing to address the complaints, even granting Hilcorp exemptions.
“After a year of investigating air pollution from oil and gas operations in the state, we are unsurprised to see New Mexico place dead last for having the weakest rules,” she said.
“Earlier this year, Earthworks’ team used optical gas imaging to document pollution at oil and gas facilities across the state. This led to extensive evidence of pollution, and six official complaints against Hilcorp operations.
“But thanks to the state’s incomparably weak rules, regulators did nothing to protect our health and climate. Instead, the state issued new permit exemptions for Hilcorp in the San Juan Basin.”
New Mexico ranked directly behind Montana and Alaska, with Colorado and California taking first and second place respectively.
States were evaluated based on venting prohibition, gas capture and flaring limits, along with emission measurements and reduction.
They were also ranked according to leak detection policies and waste minimization plans.
The report pointed to a recent federal rollback of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2016 Venting and Flaring Rule enacted during the final months of the administration of former-President Barrack Obama, as a problem facing all states included in the study.
“States have taken wildly different approaches to minimizing natural gas waste. Some have established requirements that meet or even exceed the 2016 BLM standard while others have left significant sources completely unregulated,” read the report.
“Relying on this patchwork approach will lead to inconsistent standards across our public lands and more importantly will result in pollution and the continued waste of taxpayer owned resources.”
New Mexico’s energy production in 2017 was about 46 percent oil and 25 percent natural gas, read the report, with 138,000 people within half a mile of oil and gas facilities.
Between 2008 to 2017, the report identified about $322.5 million waste in natural gas through leaks, venting and flaring.
Unlike other states, New Mexico operators are not prohibited from venting gas, read the report. Operators are only required to report gas that is produced and sold. Any gas used onsite is estimated.
There are no emission reduction requirements for drilling operations or pneumatic pumps or controllers.
The state did create a “notice to operators” that requires gas capture plans be submitted with all applications to permit drilling (APDs).
“This waste is likely to continue or even increase as the Permian oil and gas basin has become one of the fastest growing oil plays in the country,” read the report.
“The rampant waste of federal gas in New Mexico is indicative of a high producing state with inadequate waste prevention standards. Given the lack of state protections and the high rates of production, the repeal of the BLM rule will disproportionately impact New Mexicans, causing them to lose out on important royalty revenues. It also illustrates the serious need for statewide action.”
Montana, ranked just ahead of New Mexico only lost a about third of New Mexico’s natural gas losses between 2008 and 2017, read the report, at about $111.6 million.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.