(SANTA FE, NM) The New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) today finalized rules to eliminate the practice of routine venting and flaring at new and existing wells across the state. Routine flaring occurs when operators burn off natural gas produced from oil wells instead of capturing it and selling it, or otherwise putting it to beneficial use.
With this move New Mexico joins Colorado in becoming the first states in the lower 48 to put a stop to the wasteful practice. Other oil and gas producing states, such Texas, are facing increasing pressure from investors and companies to zero out routine flaring. And recent surveys have found flaring to be an outsized source of climate-warming methane emissions.
Venting and flaring contribute significantly to New Mexico’s overall problem with methane waste and pollution. This means efforts to end the wasteful practice – as well as complementary efforts underway from the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) – will be necessary to meet Gov. Lujan Grisham’s goal of nationally leading methane waste and air pollution rules.
“The Lujan Grisham administration deserves praise for enacting strong rules to end routine venting and flaring in New Mexico. This is a first and critical step toward addressing the 1,1 million metric tons of methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. Now, in order to fully protect New Mexico communities from needless waste and pollution, the New Mexico Environment Department must do its job and finalize complementary air pollution rules that address the equipment leaks and malfunctions that constitute the lion’s share of the industry’s methane problem.”
- Jon Goldstein, Director, Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Energy
EDF estimates New Mexico’s methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are considerably higher than industry reported data at 1.1 million metric tons per year, according to our most recent scientific analysis. This emissions estimate is in line with the state’s own newly released estimates based in part on a recent series of flyovers with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The loss of methane through venting, flaring and leaks wastes a valuable energy resource that would otherwise help generate as much as $43 million a year for important state needs, such as education. Reducing needless venting and flaring is critical for curbing waste, reducing pollution and protecting public health.
A separate and necessary air pollution rule from the New Mexico Environment Department is still being drafted. That rule will be critical for effectively addressing emissions and meeting the governor’s climate goals, as it targets leaks that constitute 70% of New Mexico’s oil and gas pollution problem.
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