This is the fourth in a series of articles highlighting the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. NMOGA lobbies on behalf of oil and gas interests, seeking less regulation and oversight for their industry and greater access to political power in the state. Last year, the Executive Director of NMOGA, Ryan Flynn, spoke at their annual meeting about the future of oil and gas in New Mexico as they moved into the election cycle of 2018, their goals to seize power, and the strength of their “opposition,” the citizens of New Mexico who have pushed back against the fossil fuel industry and their stranglehold on the state at all levels.
NMOGA’s Executive Director has made a lot of big claims about how his industry aims to help New Mexicans, especially pointing out the fiscal returns to schools from lease permits from oil and gas companies. But what kind of quality of life can families expect in New Mexico if methane, benzene, and other pollution is being vented right next door to a school or a day-care center?
Today the New Mexico State The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Air Quality Bureau is meeting to decide the fate of proposed new rules governing how oil and gas companies are allowed to build new facilities within the state. It has been an ongoing process during which public comment was allowed, as well as input from industry lobby groups such as the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Among other issues at stake is that of where exactly companies can construct a new oil well and other facilities.
Currently, New Mexico law requires such buildings to be at least a quarter mile away from any school, homes, offices, recreational areas like parks, and other “occupied structures.” The new draft proposal being examined today does away with those limits, putting children and families at risk of being even closer to all types of leaked and vented pollutants.
Not to mention the unexpected, but totally possible, extraordinary events that can happen around oil and gas operations.
Less than three months ago, hundreds of residents in Eddy County were evacuated when a Texas-based company’s natural gas line ruptured, causing a massive explosion and fire that destroyed at least one building. Safeguards that keep facilities like this away from occupied areas clearly are needed to ensure that the industry can do its job but residents can remain reasonably safe from harm.
The fact of the matter is, wasted (vented or leaked) methane is already a HUGE problem for the state as a whole. The physical effect of all the wasted gas has created an enormous cloud of localized methane over the four corners region already. And last week ProgressNowNM highlighted what the fiscal impacts were to the state; enough methane is burned off by oil and gas companies to heat every home in the state EVERY YEAR!
Under the Trump administration, there has already been a series of rollbacks to many of the environmental protections needed to keep New Mexico families safe from an industry aimed at maximizing profits during a time that oil and gas experts are calling southeast New Mexico’s Permian Basin the new Saudi Arabia. This is a time for our state regulators to be more aware and vigilant than ever to the health and well being of our citizens, not minimizing safeties at the behest of NMOGA.