New Mexico adopts industry ozone regulations - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico adopts industry ozone regulations

Natural gas separators on a well pad in northwest Rio Arriba County. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopted regulations aimed at reducing ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopted rules this week aimed at reducing air pollution in the oil and gas industry.

New regulations will target pollutants that form ozone, which can cause smog and respiratory issues.

Tannis Fox, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney, applauded requirements for more leak inspections at wells that are located within 1,000 feet of “where people live, work and play.”

“That’s a really significant proposal that has tremendous public health benefits, as the evidence is there that the closer you live to oil and gas wells, the more at risk you are for a whole series of health impacts,” Fox said.

Industry equipment in the high-ozone counties of Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan and Valencia are included in the new rule. Ozone pollutants can also be found in vehicle emissions and wildfire smoke.

The state Environment Department’s original proposal included exemptions for low-producing wells. But the final rule removes those exceptions.

“This rule is an enormous win for communities impacted by unhealthy air quality caused by oil and gas operations,” said state Environment Secretary James Kenney. “Over the next few months, we will begin robust and innovative compliance assurance activities to ensure oil and gas operations are adhering to these new requirements.”

Operators must have emissions data certified by an engineer and quickly find and fix leaks once the rules go into effect this summer.

Companies will retrofit control devices and other equipment that can leak pollutants during drilling and processing.

The department, which is grappling with an inspector shortage, encourages operators to use technology to detect leaks.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association President and CEO Doug Ackerman said the group expects the new rule will reduce emissions. But he said the industry is responsible for only a small amount of the state’s ozone pollution.

“The oil and gas industry is already one of the most heavily regulated industries in New Mexico today, and NMOGA is supportive of the new NMED regulations that are effective without being needlessly burdensome on the industry,” Ackerman said.

The NMED rules complement regulations adopted by the Oil Conservation Commission last year.

Those regulations – aimed at methane emissions – banned routine flaring and venting of natural gas and mandated operators reach a 98% gas capture rate by the end of 2026.

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

 

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