Two-week hearing on ozone rule in oil and gas ends

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Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Council concluded a two-week hearing on Friday on proposed regulations to address oil and natural gas pollution that contribute to high ozone levels.

Ozone can cause smog and respiratory problems.

Air pollution has worsened in New Mexico in recent years, including in the state’s oil basins.

The state Department of Environment’s proposal would target emissions by requiring operators to find and repair leaks and have emissions data certified by a professional engineer.

John Smitherman, senior advisor to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said the state should not pursue a proposal to tighten pollution controls for wells that have been drilled but have not yet entered the phase. full-fledged production.

“We believe the gas volumes during this time are very low and do not justify the risks and costs associated with attempting to capture them,” Smitherman said.

Smitherman said requiring operators to change their mode of operation during the “initial reflux” phase of a well could result in dangerous build-ups of liquid and gas pressure.

Industry groups have also raised concerns about the rule’s potential economic impacts on small producers in a state heavily dependent on oil and gas revenues.

Tom Alexander, a former industry executive and current Environmental Defense Fund consultant, said requiring leak detection and repair is “reasonable” because technology like special cameras already exists.

“If a well doesn’t support a modest investment to do the right thing, then maybe it needs to be plugged,” Alexander said. “I don’t see anything here that is going to destroy the industry.”

EDF and other environmental groups are asking for rules requiring:

• More inspections for sites near homes and schools.

• Stricter standards when drilling and completing wells.

• Earlier deadlines for the adoption of zero-emission equipment control devices.

These changes would make the rule more in line with Colorado regulations.

The seven-member board is expected to make a decision on the proposed rule in early 2022.

Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America body covering Water and the Environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

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