State oil and gas regulators began public hearings yesterday on new rules for NM energy producers. The hearings will focus on the newly proposed rules for reducing methane gas emissions at production sites as well as venting and flaring. According to the Governor’s latest proposal on the issue operators would need to reduce their waste by a fixed amount every year to achieve an ultimate gas capture rate of 98 percent by December 2026. Environmental advocates argue the practice of venting or flaring should be banned outright in New Mexico.
The rules under consideration by the Oil Conservation Commission would prohibit routine venting and flaring and require operators to report emissions at every stage of production. Those who miss their targets could be prevented from drilling new wells and may face enforcement actions. Environmental advocates argue that the practice of venting or flaring contributes to the increased methane emissions from NM’s oil patch and energy producers are not moving fast enough to implement systems that would achieve a gas capture rate of 98 percent by the target date of 2026. Environmentalists argue that all venting and flaring should be outlawed and that loopholes in the current regulations allow the practice to continue. What that argument misses however, is that venting or flaring has been significantly reduced already and is a waste of potential profits for producers and state revenue.
Methane is a valuable side effect of oil production and is only flared when absolutely necessary. There is no reason to burn away useful methane when it could add to the bottom line for already strained energy producers. A closed system without leaks is the goal of producers and environmentalists alike, but heavy handed regulation of the industry only serves to kill off small, local producers who cannot keep up with the oil giants that support our state. After a day of opposition speakers on Monday, representatives from the industry will have a turn at the podium on Tuesday. Click HERE to read more.