30-Group Coalition Launches New Ad Campaign Calling on Governor Lujan Grisham to Adopt Strong, Comprehensive Oil and Gas Air Quality Regulations

April 22, 2021
Hannah Blatt, hblatt@edfaction.org, 202-572-3534

SANTA FE, NM – A diverse coalition of 30 New Mexico conservation, Tribal, health, and faith-based organizations and community leaders today launched a television and internet advertising campaign calling on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to adopt strong state Environment Department rules to reduce air and methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.

A television spot running in media markets across the state features residents of the San Juan and Permian Basins thanking Governor Lujan Grisham for committing to nation-leading rules on air pollution and methane emissions and calling on the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to “close the loopholes” in draft air pollution rules that exempt the vast majority of wells from oversight. The ad was paid for by Citizens Caring for the Future, Diné CARE, Environmental Defense Action Fund, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Western Environmental Law Center.

Watch the TV ad here.

“New Mexico is home to some of the worst methane pollution in the nation,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Executive Director Western Environmental Law Center. “Gov. Lujan Grisham has set the right goal in calling for nation-leading rules to reduce methane waste and pollution as a key step in addressing the climate impacts caused by oil and gas, but NMED’s draft air pollution rules were inadequate. The state must close these loopholes in its revised, proposed rule to protect New Mexicans.”

  • NMED is expected to release draft rules next month to reduce air pollution and leaks which account for 70% of New Mexico’s methane emissions. The agency is working in concert with the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) on a comprehensive approach to methane because each has oversight authority over different aspects of oil and gas operations.
  • EMNRD’s Oil Conservation Commission has jurisdiction over energy waste and revenue related issues (including methane waste through venting and flaring of natural gas). NMED is developing rules to establish emission standards for things including leaks of ozone precursors – volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – for oil and gas production and processing sources, and methane emissions reductions are a co-benefit of efforts to reduce ozone precursors.
  • Unfortunately, an earlier draft of NMED’s air pollution rules released in July 2020 were inadequate and included loopholes that would leave the vast majority of New Mexico’s oil and gas wells exempt from oversight. As written, the July, 2020 draft NMED rules would fail to address between 60 and 70 percent of the industry’s methane and air pollution emissions.
  • The next draft of the NMED rules are anticipated to be released in May with a hearing before the Environmental Improvement Board later this summer. A strong NMED rule is critical for addressing methane leaks, which are responsible for 70 percent of emissions statewide.

“Methane costs the state millions in lost revenue, impacting air quality and harming the climate for future generations,” said Jon Goldstein, Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Environmental Defense Action Fund. “Closing the loopholes in NMED’s earlier draft will be critical for the state to meet Governor Lujan Grisham’s climate goals and protect local air quality from pollution. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is responsible for about 25 percent of the climate change we’re already experiencing today.”

The advertising launch coincides with new data from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report showing worsening ozone pollution in New Mexico’s oil and gas producing counties. Eddy, Lea and San Juan Counties all earned an “F” grade in the report, and Eddy County is one of only two rural counties among the top 25 most polluted for ozone on the list.

Air pollution from oil and gas development poses a serious threat to the health of all New Mexicans but disproportionately impacts children, Native Americans and those living in poor, rural communities. In fact, more than half of all Native Americans in San Juan County – about 24,600 people – live within a half-mile of a wellsite that would be exempted by NMED’s draft rules.

The coalition’s advertising campaign is part of a broad public education and outreach campaign to reduce methane waste and air pollution from oil and gas in New Mexico.