Oil and gas industry working to improve methane rule for all of N.M.

Sep 25, 2021

Leland Gould, Santa Fe New Mexican | September 25th, 2021Oil and natural gas production in New Mexico is growing. That’s good news for New Mexicans in every corner in our state. Alongside this growth, an important milestone has been quietly reached as the state has passed North Dakota to become the second-largest producer of oil in the United States.

Against this backdrop, New Mexico has also entered the final phase of rule-making to reduce emissions of ozone precursors, and by extension, methane.

The state’s Oil Conservation Division and Environment Department have spent two years developing rules and engaging with stakeholders. The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and other oil and gas producers across New Mexico have participated in this process and have engaged collaboratively and proactively.

Unfortunately, a recent New Mexican editorial mischaracterized and maligned efforts on behalf of industry to help the state promulgate nationally leading rules that reduce emissions and maintain New Mexico’s fiscal and economic engine (“Blue skies without pollution — that should be the goal,” Our View, Sept. 14). Feedback from oil and gas producers has been focused on preventing unnecessary and unintended negative consequences, such as shutting in significant production volumes or closing small businesses.

Ultimately, natural gas (mostly methane), is a valuable product we produce, transport and deliver to consumers. We want to capture as much methane as possible so people and families all over the world benefit from this clean-burning fuel used to generate electricity, heat our homes, power our industry and warm our food.

At the very beginning of these rule-makings in 2019, NMOGA published a Methane Mitigation Roadmap to help guide policymakers in their efforts to develop a regulatory framework that achieves meaningful reductions in methane emissions and also preserves New Mexico’s economic and fiscal foundation.

NMOGA followed the roadmap in 2020 with a series of recommendations to end the routine flaring of natural gas. Prior to the development of rules, producers throughout New Mexico already were employing some of the most advanced methane mitigation technology on the planet and proactively working together to find new, creative ways to minimize emissions. NMOGA has urged policymakers to consider and recognize how these solutions to reduce emissions can be adopted and developed. A regulatory approach that promotes creativity and problem-solving allows producers to develop and implement the next generation of technologies resulting in a continuous cycle of environmental research and innovation.

The Environmental Improvement Board will hear a multitude of technical and environmental testimony this month before finalizing the Environment Department’s rule early next year. We hope the board will acknowledge and address the concerns and anxiety shared by some producers and small businesses across New Mexico. We want these New Mexicans to succeed, too, and with practical modifications to the proposed rule, they can continue to play a vital role as the heartbeat of many New Mexico communities.

While we haven’t agreed with regulators on everything, we do agree that energy leadership and environmental leadership go hand in hand. We’re confident New Mexico can remain a top energy producer while also protecting our climate, land, air and water.

The rebound in oil and gas industry once again is driving growth as the foundation of New Mexico’s economy. It is important that any rule consider potential impacts to our state and allow our industry to continue to grow, create jobs, attract investment and provide critical funds for our state budget and public schools.

We can meet policy objectives while supporting economic growth and job creation at the same time. For our part, New Mexico’s oil and gas industry will continue to work with regulators to craft nationally leading rules that achieve balance, meaningful results and prosperity for all New Mexicans.