This article was originally published by NM Policy Report.
After a long discussion, the Environmental Improvement Board adopted rules on ozone precursors on April 13.
The week-long hearing involved in-depth discussions on each article and rule changes. The EIB voted on each section and definition.
These rules apply to oil and gas production in counties that exceed federal ozone thresholds. These counties include Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan and Valencia.
While Bernalillo County has also had issues with high ozone levels, it has its own air quality division.
“This rule is a huge win for communities affected by poor air quality caused by oil and gas operations,” NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a press release. “Over the coming months, we will launch robust and innovative compliance assurance activities to ensure oil and gas operations meet these new requirements.”
The Ozone Precursor Rule is intended to be combined with the Methane Waste Rule developed by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to address emissions from oil and gas facilities. The New Mexico Department of Environment developed the Ozone Precursor Rule with input from industry groups, environmentalists and other stakeholders.
Industry groups and environmental advocacy groups supported the rule.
Doug Ackerman, president and CEO of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said NMOGA supports the new regulations and, in an email to NM Political Report, he described them as “effective without being wasteful.” .[ly] weighing on the industry.
Ozone occurs with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds interact with sunlight to form smog. It is usually linked to the combustion of fossil fuels. While Ackerman said the new regulations would reduce emissions, he said NMOGA believes it will have a limited impact on total ozone levels. He said the oil and gas industry is only one contributor to ozone levels and is responsible for less than three parts per billion of the “approximately 75 parts per billion of ozone that exist today”.
New Mexico’s oil and gas producing counties tend to have higher ozone levels than other parts of the state, and by targeting ozone precursors, the state is also targeting emissions. chemicals that impact human health and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Ackerman said some changes were made during EIB deliberations that the NMOGA deemed unnecessary and could prove more costly. He said these changes could also create additional risk on site with very little impact on ozone levels. But, overall, he said he was happy with the rules.
“Despite these few deviations from NMED staff’s recommendations, we believe these new regulations will reduce emissions and continue to exemplify industry’s commitment to powering New Mexico cleanly, efficiently, and safely, now. and in the future,” he said.
The rule will require frequent detection and repair of leaks at oil and gas facilities. Environmental groups say the new regulations will address greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change while protecting the health of community members living near oil and gas facilities. The rule aims to enable innovation and provides companies with the opportunity to implement new technologies. The New Mexico Department of the Environment describes it as “technologically neutral.” For example, the required leak detection allows companies to use satellites, aircraft, drones and fence monitoring.
Leak detection must take place on a monthly basis and, if leaks are discovered, they must be repaired within 15 days, according to the new rule. Companies will also be required to maintain records and demonstrate ongoing compliance.
Part of the EIB’s discussions focused on the requirements that small businesses with limited resources must comply with.
“The oil and gas industry is already one of the most regulated industries in New Mexico. Any new or additional regulations can be burdensome for operators of any size, but are especially challenging for smaller operators with more limited resources. said Ackerman.
Environmental groups have argued that sometimes small facilities can be large emitters.
While some industry groups proposed less frequent leak inspections for low-production wells, this ultimately did not make it into the rule. The rule requires facilities near schools and homes to be subject to more frequent inspections.
“NMED’s rules, which address oversized emissions from smaller, leak-prone wells and protect those who live closest to the development with more frequent inspections to find and fix leaks, provide a powerful example that the EPA can build on to advance methane protections nationwide,” Jon Goldstein, senior director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a press release.
The rule-making process also saw the state’s second-largest oil producer, Occidental Petroleum, join environmental groups in advocating for measures to protect air quality.
“Reducing methane pollution is one of the best levers we have to reduce air pollution and fight climate change,” Celerah Hewes of the Moms Clean Air Task Force said in a press release. . “With nearly 9,000 children under the age of 5 and more than 78% of young children living within one mile of an active oil or gas well in San Juan County alone, the adoption of rules that protect frontline communities is a breath of fresh air for parents. New Mexico.”
Oil and gas operators will also need to calculate emission rates and have those calculations certified by a qualified engineer. In addition, it establishes requirements for the reduction of emissions at the level of various pieces of equipment as well as during various processes.
The rules on ozone precursors result from an executive order issued by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham aimed at combating climate change by reducing emissions from the oil and gas sectors.
“Today marks the fulfillment of a promise I made to New Mexicans – to create tough, enforceable regulations in the oil and gas sector that will result in cleaner, healthier air in our communities,” said she said in a press release. “This is a major step forward in meeting our targets for reducing emissions and improving air quality. New Mexicans can be proud of the fact that we lead the nation by putting in place rules that protect our families and their environment.
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