NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The state is holding public hearings on proposed rule changes that could change the oil and gas industry in the state. The rules are intended to reduce ozone pollution but some argue they go too far. The New Mexico Environment Department is focusing new regulations on the northeast and southeast New Mexico. It is an effort to level pollution as oil and natural gas is pumped from the ground.
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This would require oil and gas producers to increase self-monitoring of ozone levels as well and installation of new equipment to limit how much pollutants are released. Charles De Saillan, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, spoke during the hearing on Tuesday, stating that many of the agencies involved are in favor of the proposed regulations
“I want to say that we support the agreement that has been reached among OXI USA, EDF, clean air advocates and some of the other organizations. We commend these parties for reaching an agreement on these issues. We urge the Environment Department to also support this agreement and we urge the board to adopt the terms of this agreement,” De Saillan said.
The monitoring includes how to monitor the frequency of leaks and repair inspections at wells statewide. Now, oil and gas companies in the state support the push for clean air but are worried because some of the rules will have a negative impact on the state’s economy.
“Our concerns with independent production is that the rules, as they are proposed, could have a disproportional impact on our smaller producers,” said Jim Winchester, of IPANM.
There are 14 air monitoring stations that the state agency maintains in New Mexico. Environmentalists say there is only one of those each in Eddy and Lea counties and there needs to be more monitoring. In a bipartisan letter from the Legislative Finance Committee, they estimated the proposed regulations could cost state and local governments up to $730 million. The name says the study the LFC was using was flawed.
However, legislators are worried because of how dependent the state budget is on oil and gas production.
“If it becomes so stringent and so punitive that it drives people out of business or lose investment to out of state, it will have an economic impact locally and then that economic impact will be felt at the state,” said Eddy County Manager Allen Davis
The environmental board will not vote on the rule until after all parties have filed post-hearing reports. If passed the final rule will go into effect sometime in 2022.