The Center for Civic Policy, Naeva, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) today announced they have filed to intervene in an appeal filed by the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPANM) with the New Mexico Court of Appeals seeking to undermine New Mexico’s oil and gas air pollution rules. Conservation and community leaders applauded Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s leadership creating and defending nation-leading rules to protect New Mexicans from the impacts of oil and gas waste and pollution.
In the appeal, WELC represents Conservation Voters New Mexico, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Earthworks, National Parks Conservation Association, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, 350 New Mexico, and 350 Santa Fe.
“When all of New Mexico’s major oil and gas producing counties, including Eddy, Lea and San Juan, are receiving failing grades for ozone pollution, it should be a wake-up call that strong state regulations tackling air pollution from the oil and gas industry are urgently needed,” said Tannis Fox, WELC senior attorney. “IPANM is out of step with the rest of the industry and is the only industry party among many that participated in the rulemaking that has appealed the rule.”
“The legal wrangling and foot dragging from IPANM is a direct threat to the health of families in the Permian and San Juan Basins because the appeal targets common sense protections for those living closest to well sites in frontline communities,” said Jon Goldstein, EDF’s Senior Director, Regulatory and Legislative Affairs. “This misguided appeal seeks to eliminate requirements for oil and gas operators to conduct more frequent inspections to find and fix leaks in proximity to homes, schools and businesses.”
While IPANM claims to be representing smaller oil producers, its appeal seeks loopholes and carve-outs for some of the state’s biggest polluters, including Hilcorp Energy Co., the biggest methane polluter in the U.S. and an IPANM board member.
“Make no mistake – IPANM’s legal attack against New Mexico’s oil and gas ozone pollution rules is bad for our air, bad for our health, and wastes time and money for both the government and producers, which should be spent on cutting pollution instead,” said Oriana Sandoval, executive director of the Center for Civic Policy. “I applaud Gov. Lujan Grisham for standing up to the big oil polluters who are putting profits above people in New Mexico.”
“The state’s strong, nation-leading Rule cuts ozone and other greenhouse gas emissions driving the ever-mounting climate catastrophes devastating people and parks,” said Emily Wolf, New Mexico senior program coordinator at National Parks Conservation Association. “We must continue forward into a new era for the benefit of parks and communities. It’s unfortunate that IPANM is attempting to stand in the way.”
Venting, flaring, and leaks during oil and gas operations are significant sources of ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and hazardous air pollutants like benzene. Ozone pollution or smog can worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema, trigger asthma attacks, and impact the cardiovascular system. The health effects of ozone pollution are especially severe for children, the elderly, and communities of color.
The proximity rule is important because peer-reviewed air quality health risk assessment studies indicate cancer and noncancer health risks rise with increasing proximity to oil and gas development sites. EDF estimates that the proximity inspection requirements will protect the health of over 35,000 New Mexicans living within 1,000 feet of a well site. Of those, over 2,700 are children under the age of five and 19,000 are people of color.
“Thousands of New Mexicans – especially people of color – live, work and play next door to oil and gas wells tha emit harmful air pollution,” said Ahtza Chavez, Executive Director of Naeva. “The Environmental Improvement Board wisely required companies to check for pollution more frequently from these ‘next door’ wells. We believe it’s important to fight to maintain these protections against IPANM’s appeal.”
With the leadership of Gov. Lujan Grisham, the state Environment Department developed nation-leading ozone precursor rules with the input of the oil and gas industry and New Mexicans from across the state. Oxy USA Inc., which is the second largest oil producer in New Mexico and the fourth-largest operator of low-producing well sites in the nation, supports the state’s approach. The Environmental Improvement Board approved final air pollution rules in April which have already gone into effect. IPANM has filed a notice of appeal and docketing statement, and the Court of Appeals is preparing to calendar the appeal.