As the New Mexico legislation enters its final days, we applaud Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart for her introduction of SB520, the Clean Future Act. This bill—though modest and yet still facing an uphill battle in the legislature—would nonetheless prove a step forward to address the climate crisis and help New Mexico’s transition away from fossil fuels and toward a thriving, resilient future.
Specifically, SB520 would amend the New Mexico Air Quality Control Act to reduce statewide direct climate pollution 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, 75% below 2005 levels by 2040, and 90% below 2005 levels by 2050. SB520 would also codify an existing regulatory requirement that oil and gas companies capture 98% of all produced natural gas, helping to address serious methane pollution and waste caused by statewide oil and gas production, which comprises 53% of total state emissions. Equally important, the bill includes essential climate equity principles important to frontline and overburdened communities.
SB520 is thus a welcome entry into New Mexico’s climate dialogue, even as the lack of specificity regarding implementation is of serious concern. We are also deeply concerned with the capacity and willingness of state agencies to implement SB520 and to otherwise take critically-needed climate and transition action. Yet we acknowledge that, given the politics, timing, and other constraints set by the current legislative session, ambitious action truly commensurate to the challenge and opportunity presented by the climate crisis is highly unlikely. Again, SB520 is a step—if only a single, measured step—forward.
To best ensure that the modest provisions of SB520 are as effective as possible, we do recommend that the legislature include two friendly technical amendments.
First, we recommend amending section 1’s provisions, which would add a new Section D to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act to provide for the capture of 98% of produced natural gas, to read as follows:
D. The Oil Conservation Division shall require operators to reduce the annual volume of vented and flared natural gas to no less than ninety-eight percent of the natural gas produced from its wells.
This language is consistent with the Oil Conservation Division’s existing rules (N.M. Code R. 18.104.22.168.A) and thus reflects language vetted through climate, environmental, and industry groups. Notably, OCD does not calculate compliance with the 98% capture rate by permit, which may prove impractical. Rather, OCD measures compliance annually by operator and we recommend the legislature do so as well. We view this language as far easier to understand and implement.
Second, we recommend changing the definition of “state entity” in section 5.D to include the New Mexico Finance authority. The New Mexico Finance Authority administers much of the state’s economic development and transition funding and should account for the climate impacts of their grant, loan, and investment activity.