Home New mexico state New Mexico oil and gas communities call for more pollution controls

New Mexico oil and gas communities call for more pollution controls


Carlsbad’s Kayley Shoup said the worst of fossil fuel air pollution stumbled upon his community alongside one of the world’s busiest oil fields in the Permian Basin region of southeastern New Mexico.

Shoup said she fears high cancer rates and other health impacts in the region are linked to emissions of methane – a greenhouse gas believed to be 84 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. carbon within 20 years of being released into the atmosphere.

His comments came at an Oct. 6 meeting hosted by the Sierra Club and joined by environmental group Carlsbad Citizens Caring for the Future of which Shoup is the spokesperson.

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The meeting came as the US Environmental Protection Agency was to release new rules governing methane emissions oil and gas operations across the United States

Activists in New Mexico hoped the new policy, aimed at increasing air monitoring and leak detection requirements, would follow their state’s recently updated guidelines and create a national standard to reduce Texas pollution. , which shares the Permian with New Mexico, which crosses the state’s borders.

For Shoup, it’s about protecting both the environment and the people who inhabit cities like his hometown of Carlsbad, deep in the Permian oil and gas fields.

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Although Carlsbad and southeastern New Mexico benefit economically from fossil fuel production, Shoup said the industry should be held accountable for the damage that financial growth can leave in its wake.

She said Eddy County, of which Carlsbad is the county seat, has recently seen an increase of up to 40% in the number of people living within half a mile of oil and gas operations, a problem which could worsen as the city’s population grows and residential areas move closer to well sites and other infrastructure.

“The constant production of oil and gas is impacting a lot of people,” Shoup said. “And with the influx into the Permian of so many new people coming to town, more and more people are being impacted by these oil and gas sites.

“As we had this oil boom, we had to build our community. All of these people live in places where they have oil and gas in their backyards. »

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EPA seeks to crack down on nationwide oil and gas pollution

EPA regulations to address this issue at the federal level follow an April report from the Government Accountability Office calling for federal actions to reduce emissions.

The GAO report recommended that the EPA give operators more flexibility to use available technology in detecting and repairing emission events like leaks.

“Representatives of certain industry entities and stakeholders said they encountered challenges in meeting EPA requirements, including that site-specific applications are time-consuming and resource-intensive,” reads the statement. the GAO report.

“Without greater flexibility in the approval process for alternative technologies, the EPA could impede the adoption of innovative approaches to detecting and reducing methane emissions. “

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The report also suggested that the Bureau of Land Management consider requiring gas capture plans for operations on federal lands similar to those required at the state level like that in New Mexico.

“Some states have regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas development that exceed BLM requirements,” the report said. “Without taking steps to require gas to be captured during production, BLM potentially forfeits revenue from wasted gas, which contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Joan Brown of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based environmental group, said the group had conducted frequent field studies over the past decade in the Permian, seeing continued growth in operations and so, Brown said , an associated atmospheric pollution.

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“We do this because it’s the ethical and moral thing to do,” she said. “We have heard of people dying of cancer. We felt the impacts. We pray for healing and wisdom. It hurts all our hearts. It’s a matter of love – loving God’s creation.

Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman said while states like New Mexico have taken action, the federal government must do so as well to truly address the problem nationwide.

EPA rules should require the detection and repair of regulatory leaks even for low-production or “stripper” wells, Feibelman said, while providing better reporting opportunities for local community members and increasing requirements for oil and gas installations near residential areas.

“As we think about oil and gas operations and what they should look like, there’s a lot that EPA methane rules could do, and a lot of our local rules can do,” he said. she stated. “We have all worked to make sure these are the strongest and most powerful rules possible to protect members of our New Mexico community.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.