An article from the past weekend from the Santa Fe New Mexican titled “Environmental groups worry EPA memo will lead to uptick in pollution” is worth taking a second look at for anyone paying attention to the oil and gas industry.
For some context, the Trump Administration has offered the industry a get out of jail free card from Environmental Protection Act enforcement during the COVID-19 crisis, essentially making decades of important health and safety rules moot. t’s not hard to assume that as soon as the overseeing agency says they’re not going to be checking up that the oil and gas industry will stop complying with our health-based clean air and water laws.
According to the article from this weekend, that’s pretty much what’s happening.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Chevron, Veronica Flores-Paniagua, forwarded a blog post from the American Petroleum Institute, which had originally asked the EPA for the monitoring flexibility, that claimed the “temporary relief for non-essential compliance requirements” does not constitute a rollback of environmental enforcement. Julie King, a spokeswoman for ExxonMobil, also said the energy company complies “with all laws, rules and regulations applicable to our business.” Neither said, however, whether the two companies would voluntarily continue to submit emissions reports or other previous environmental requirements that can be temporarily waived by the EPA.
Right… So the spokespeople say they’re going to keep complying with EPA standards, but also won’t say if they’re going to submit the actual reports to prove that they are. What’s that old saying about trust but verify?
And meanwhile the state’s three deep pocketed oil and gas front groups, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM) and Power the Future are all lobbying for relaxed and delayed environmental protections as well.
So what about the state’s ability to monitor these companies? Well the good news there is that Governor Lujan Grisham’s Environment Secretary James Kenney is singing a very different and better tune in that same article.
“if folks think that this memo gives them carte blanche to [skirt federal regulations] in New Mexico…we’ll handle that through our enforcement authorities, and I believe EPA will be supportive of us.”
This is the exact time to be thinking about our own state’s ability to implement and enforce smart and impactful regulations to protect our communities above and beyond whatever federal rules are or aren’t in place. Specifically, instituting the long-awaited methane rule would ensure that New Mexico families are protected from the literal tons of methane spewed into our air every year from oil and gas companies as well as ensure our state is receiving its fair share of revenue.