Lawsuit threatens to undo NM’s nation-leading oil & gas rules

Lawsuit threatens to undo NM’s nation-leading oil & gas rules

All oil all the time

When it comes to oil and gas things in New Mexico, there’s always something to talk about. This particular week, this first week of October 2022 is a particularly dense week for oil and gas news though, above and beyond. There’s the annual conference of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) and all that entails. There’s the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta that this year is sponsored by oil giant Exxon. And there’s all the international intrigue around OPEC+ announcing they’re cutting production by as much as two MILLION barrels per day starting next month, sending markets into a tizzy while consumers are left once again paying more at the pump.

But behind all of that is something you absolutely need to know about. The so-called Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM), another lobby group that represents theoretically “small” oil producers in the state (we’ll come back to that) filed a lawsuit at the end of the summer that actually has some pretty dire consequences for New Mexico if it were to prove fruitful in court.

Don’t we love the “little guy?”

IPANM is a trade group (a lobby) that works in concert with other pro-fossil fuel groups every year in Santa Fe (and DC, lets not kid ourselves) to represent their member companies interests to policy makers. Both their name and their very flashy marketing would have you believe that while their closest allies NMOGA represent “the big guys” and they (IPANM) represent “the little guys” in the oil industry, it’s not really true. IPANM has relationships with all the same big names you know from the oil industry like Chevron and Exxon and, most importantly for New Mexicans who pay attention to these spaces, Hilcorp.

We have an extensive backlog of stories about Hilcorp but suffice it to say they’re a major player in US oil (with ties to international plays as well) but you know them probably for the super disturbing amount of headlines you’ve seen over the years about just how bad they are at pollution. And like, in a world where we’re talking about all the big “majors,” realizing that Hilcorp is LITERALLY THE WORST POLLUTER in the country is kinda a big deal.

Wait, what’s the big deal?

Ok so why you’re here is because IPANM filed a lawsuit a few months ago, suing the state on behalf of their members saying that New Mexico’s new rules about emissions are too strict or too harsh on their little bitty teeny tiny oil producers. But here’s the thing. The emissions rules that both the Environment Department and the Energy & Natural Resources Department have adopted are literally set at the levels they are BECAUSE OF small* producers. We use the asterisk there because again, the companies we’re talking about are only small when you compare them to Chevron or Exxon or Shell… there’s nothing “small” about Hilcorp or other oil producers in NM.

Literally IPANM has this map on their own website showing that a bunch of their members aren’t even in New Mexico lmao

The technical language in NM’s emissions rules allows for operators of a certain size (based on production level amounts typically) to operate within reasonable limits set forth by scientists and engineers and policy folks who know all that stuff. What IPANM’s lawsuit is claiming is (after the fact, AFTER literally YEARS of collaborative work with the industry including IPANM) that it just isn’t fair that small producers and their leaky janky wells be treated to such scrutiny.

And that’s bad?

Yes, it’s very bad. Taken as a whole, the emissions from “small” wells and their associated infrastructure accounts for HALF of the detected emissions in New Mexico. The “big guys” have been working for years to mitigate their emissions both for PR purposes (mostly that) but also because of cost-benefit analysis. Meanwhile, companies like Hilcorp have come in and bought up old leaky wells to add to their portfolio and are now claiming they can’t possibly abide by the rules. What they mean is, they can’t meet revenue projections from their bad investments if they have to retrofit those wells to not you know, leak junk.

Ok, so now what?

Well since it’s a legal action there’s not a ton we can do per se, but it’s dang important that we know about it! We’ve released some ads which you can watch here and you can share this article and the videos with your friends and family!

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