New Mexico oil group appeals ozone pollution rules

·2 min read

Aug. 6—The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico filed a legal appeal Friday challenging new state regulations aimed at reducing ozone pollution in the oil and gas industry.

New Mexico's Environmental Improvement Board adopted the new rules in April, and they officially went into effect on Friday.

Oil and gas operators in high-ozone counties must now have emissions data certified by an engineer.

IPANM executive director Jim Winchester said the rule contains provisions that will force companies to plug productive wells and "inflict economic hardship" on residents.

"At a time when the public supports responsible domestic production to reduce gasoline prices and a decrease in our dependency on foreign sources of energy that are unquestionably worse for the environment, IPANM strongly feels this is the wrong rule at the wrong time," he said.

Under the new rule, companies must quickly find and fix leaks and retrofit control devices.

NMED's new regulations apply to operations in Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan and Valencia counties, which have high ozone pollution.

When the EIB adopted the rules earlier this year, state Environment Secretary James Kenney said the agency would begin "robust and innovative" monitoring to ensure oil and gas companies are following the regulations.

"This rule is an enormous win for communities impacted by unhealthy air quality caused by oil and gas operations," Kenney said.

The notice of appeal, filed Friday in state appeals court, will likely be followed by technical arguments submitted to the court within the month.

IPANM, which represents about 350 members, is not citing specific objections to the rule at this point.

But the organization and other oil and gas groups did object to several provisions during the Environmental Improvement Board deliberations.

NMED removed exemptions for low-producing wells, or stripper wells, in its final regulations.

The agency also required more leak inspections for wells within 1,000 feet of homes and schools.

Ozone rules were designed to work in tandem with the Oil Conservation Division's methane regulations, which treat the greenhouse gas as an industry waste.

The state agency banned routine venting and flaring of natural gas and now requires operators to report emissions data.

Operators must also meet a 98% gas capture rate by the end of 2026.