After more than two years of collaborative public and stakeholder engagement, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board last week adopted air quality rules that will eliminate hundreds of millions of pounds of harmful emissions annually from oil and gas operations. The new rule will improve air quality for New Mexicans by establishing innovative and actionable regulations to curb the formation of ground-level ozone.
“This rule is an enormous win for communities impacted by unhealthy air quality caused by oil and gas operations,” says New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Over the next few months, we will begin robust and innovative compliance assurance activities to ensure oil and gas operations are adhering to these new requirements.”
Kenney serves as Co-Chair of the ECOS Oil & Gas Caucus, which has worked since 2014 to promote best practices related to oil and gas air emissions and produced water.
The new rule will reduce harmful emissions of ozone precursor pollutants – volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen – by approximately 260 million pounds annually, and will have the co-benefit of reducing methane emissions by over 851 million pounds annually. Starting this summer, compliance obligations for new and existing oil and gas operations in New Mexico counties with high-ozone levels will begin to take effect.
As adopted, the rule is more protective of public health and the environment than current federal requirements – and reportedly enables New Mexico to lead the nation as a model in smart regulation. The new rule allows industry to use and develop cutting-edge technology, including the use of fuel cells that convert air emissions to electricity as opposed to the wasteful practice of flaring. The rule is technology-neutral to allow for innovation, like the use of satellites, air ships, drones, and fence-line monitoring to comply with leak detection provisions for equipment.