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How is New Mexico influencing federal oil and gas air pollution policy?

National policy on controlling air pollution from oil and gas could be modeled after New Mexico’s recently enacted rules

Story By Adrian Hedden|Carlsbad Current-Argus| National policy on controlling air pollution from oil and gas could be modeled after New Mexico’s recently enacted rules targeting the release of greenhouse gas from operations throughout the state.

In 2021 and 2022, the State enacted regulations at its Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources (EMNRD) and New Mexico Environment (NMED) departments intended to curb pollution resulting from methane’s release into the air.

The EMNRD rules target waste of methane, a key component of extracted natural gas used for electricity and power generation, requiring operators to capture 98 percent of the gas by 2026.

Routine flaring, or the burning of excess gas, was also banned by EMNRD’s Oil Conservation Division as an additional measure to address air pollution.

NMED last year increased requirements for leak detection, repair, and reporting at oil and gas operations throughout the U.S., specifically targeting precursor gasses that create ground-level ozone – also known as smog.

NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney touted the state’s policies, developed he said through engagement with both industry and activist groups, during the White House’s recent Methane Summit that saw the creation of a federal Methane Task Force.

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oil pumps, oil and gas minerals ad, rigsKenney said, during a panel led by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary David Turk, that collaboration was crucial to developing NMED’s ozone rules.

“New Mexico is leading the way in decarbonizing every sector of our thriving economy – from oil and gas to power generation to transportation,” he said. “Our partnership with the Biden-Harris Administration continues to support our efforts to hold oil and gas polluters accountable and protect frontline communities.”

NMED reported methane leaks lead to billions of dollars in waste natural gas each year, with 30 percent of those emissions coming from the oil and gas sector.

The federal government recently announced it was developing policy at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tighten restrictions on oil and gas emissions and add requirements that new technology intended to capture more gas is used.

White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said the efforts would also generate highly skilled jobs, and that New Mexico was serving as a model for policy throughout the U.S.

A report from the national environmental group Blue Green Alliance showed the EPA’s proposed methane policies would create “10s of thousands” of jobs paying a median salary of $30.88 an hour compared to the national average of $19.60 an hour.

“The Biden administration is turbocharging our efforts to cut wasteful and harmful methane leaks by harnessing innovative technologies and enlisting skilled workers in this urgent task,” Zaidi said. “New Mexico is a critical partner for us in this effort and is a national leader in tackling methane pollution.

“New Mexico is proof that strong climate action and good economic policy go hand-in-hand.”

But due to continually worsening ozone pollution largely attributed to oil and gas production in the region, the EPA was considering designating the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico and West Texas in “non-attainment” of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

That could mean heavier federal restrictions on oil and gas permitting.

This drew the ire of oil and gas industry supporters arguing stricter policy could curb energy production, potentially harming the economies of communities throughout the Permian Basin.

U.S. Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) in May slammed the EPA’s policies during a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, calling the federal agencies’ recent actions a “government overreach.”

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During a line of questions from EPA administrator Michael Regan, Pfluger criticized the agency for imperiling the livelihoods of his constituents in West Texas, which shares the Permian Basin with southeast New Mexico.

“I speak for 750,000 constituents that are extremely worried about the overreach and the attack and assault on American energy,” Pfluger said according to a transcript of the meeting.

“The single greatest prevention of loss of life over the past decade has been from the Permian Basin, which has helped a billion people worldwide extend their lives and lift them out of poverty.”

He pointed specifically to the EPA’s consideration of the region’s ozone designation which Pfluger said would impose unfair obstacles to oil and gas production.

“Last summer, the EPA released a regulatory agenda which included the consideration of re-designation of ozone attainment in the Permian Basin,” Pfluger said. “If this is finalized, it would impose serious regulatory burdens.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or@AdrianHedden on Twitter.

[original story HERE]

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