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Report: Oil boom upends climate goals

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Lorne Stockman, a senior research analyst with Oil Change International, speaks at a news conference in the Rotunda of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, Thursday February 13, 2020. The rally was sponsored by Oil Change International, Physicians for Social Responsiblity, New Energy Economy, WildEarth Guardians and others. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

A new report by environmental groups says New Mexico’s oil and natural gas production is “out of sync” with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s carbon reduction goals.

“The state tracks emissions from oil and gas within the New Mexico borders,” said Lorne Stockman, a research analyst with Oil Change International. “But the biggest piece of the pie is not the carbon emissions produced on site, but what is emitted from burning that product elsewhere. That data is completely ignored.”

New Mexico has taken steps to reduce carbon pollution since passing the Energy Transition Act, including supporting plans to shutter the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station and create stronger vehicle emissions standards. The state convened a Climate Change Task Force and restored authority to fine energy companies for environmental violations.

Thursday’s report estimates annual carbon dioxide from burning New Mexico’s oil and gas could reach over 550 million metric tons by 2030 – the emissions equivalent of 141 coal plants.

Nearly all New Mexico’s oil is exported. The report claims out-of-state pollution impairs state carbon reduction efforts.

State agency leaders said the report recognized “quantum leaps” the state has made in reducing emissions, but was wrong in attributing emissions from other states to New Mexico.

“Such emissions are a function of the incentives and regulations of those states and we hope that many states will follow in our footsteps, taking meaningful steps toward a more sustainable future,” Environment Department Secretary James Kenney and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said in a joint statement issued to the Journal. “Further, we do not live, work, raise families or write policy in a vacuum. The group fails to acknowledge the reality of New Mexico’s other challenges.”

Oil Change International joined New Energy Economy, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action and Wild Earth Guardians for a rally Thursday at the Roundhouse, asking agencies to report exported emissions and phase out oil and gas.

“New Mexico must find a way to look oil and gas dollars in the eye and choose a different path, for our health, for our safety, for our future and for future generations,” said YUCCA activist Seneca Johnson.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association spokesperson Robert McEntyre disagreed with the report’s portrayal of the industry, which contributed $3.1 billion in state revenues in fiscal year 2019.

“EPA data continues to show that emissions from oil and natural gas development have declined even as production has consistently reached record levels,” McEntyre said in an email to the Journal. “We are committed to safely producing oil and natural gas while reducing both emissions and our environmental footprint. Proposals like this, based on wildly inflated estimates, are the type of inflammatory, misguided rhetoric we’ve seen in opposition to our success as a top energy producer. As New Mexico’s revenue from oil and natural gas continues to soar – enabling record investments in public education, tuition-free college, and other areas – this is little more than a path to poverty.”

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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