Report documents PFAS use in fracking in New Mexico

A report indicating that PFAS chemicals have been used in hydraulic fracturing operations in New Mexico “emphasizes how important it is for regulators to know what is in the industrial wastewater,” Maddy Hayden, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Environment Department told NM Political Report in an email. Physicians for Social Responsibility released a report this week that found PFAS chemicals, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or chemicals that could break down into PFAS have been used in fracking operations in 1,200 wells in half a dozen states, including New Mexico. PFAS chemicals have a broad range of applications and can be found in household objects including non-stick cookware. In recent years, there has been growing concern about the potential health impacts of these “forever chemicals,” which do not break down under normal environmental conditions. “Ongoing research into uses of PFAS and the prevalence of these persistent chemicals in the environment is essential to support strong regulatory responses at the federal and state levels,” Hayden said.

Old oil fields may be ideal for carbon sequestration

When looking for places to sequester carbon, old oil fields may be a promising choice, according to a new study published in the journal Geology. Geophysicists from Stanford University analyzed the Delaware Basin – a sub-basin of the Permian Basin in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico – and found that injecting substances into older oil fields is less likely to cause earthquakes than if the substances are injected into a newer oil field. The geophysicists, No’am Dvory and Mark Zoback, noticed that the southern part of the basin had more seismic activity than the northern part, which has a long history of extraction. The seismic activity is primarily connected to salt water disposal, which occurs throughout the basin, according to Dvory. After creating models, the duo discovered that pore pressures in geologic formations in the northern part of the basin were lower.

OCD has issued 23 complaints resulting in fines against oil and gas companies

The Oil Conservation Division of the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department regained the ability to fine oil and gas companies that were not complying with state laws a little more than a year ago, and officials say this has paid off. Since February of 2020, the OCD has filed 23 complaints, resulting in $263,000 in penalties that go to the state’s general fund, according to a press release from EMNRD. Of those complaints, nine have been resolved. These complaints are only the formal enforcement actions that assess penalties against operators. In addition to those complaints, the OCD also issues field citations.

Revenue diversification needed as NM looks to transition away from fossil fuels

As New Mexico looks at an inevitable end to oil and gas extraction, some environmental advocates say no new leases should be issued and the United States should work to phase out fossil fuels. This would not have a huge immediate impact on the state, but could result in less revenue and fewer jobs in the future, experts say. President Joe Biden and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a former congresswoman from New Mexico, issued orders in January pausing both leasing and permitting to enable a robust review of the federal processes. The pause in permitting ended after 60 days, but the leasing pause continued until a federal judge issued a temporary injunction earlier this month. The vast majority of federal land available for leasing in New Mexico is already leased for oil and gas production, which limited the impact that the leasing moratorium had on the state. 

“It’s not as if the bottom is going to fall out because of the moratorium,” Kayley Shoup of Citizens Caring for the Future said in a Zoom call hosted by the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter this week.

House votes to restore Obama-era methane rules

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 229 to 191 on Friday to reinstate methane regulations implemented under President Barack Obama’s administration and rolled back by former President Donald Trump. The House’s vote comes after the U.S. Senate voted in late April in favor of the measure, which is intended to reduce the methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. A dozen House Republicans broke party lines and voted with the Democrats in favor of the resolution. Related: Senate votes to reverse Trump’s rollback of methane regulations

Of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican, was the only one to vote against restoring the methane rules. Environmental advocates praise the vote

Members of the environmental advocacy community in New Mexico praised the vote.

New Mexicans weigh in on methane as EPA considers new rules

Dozens of New Mexicans issued warnings about the current and future impacts of climate change this week as they urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt a new rule that would lead to significant methane emission reductions from the oil and gas sector. The comments happened as part of three days of public comment sessions as the EPA works on a new rule to address methane emissions from oil and gas. While the EPA hosted meetings to collect public comments, people can also submit comments online through June 30 at regulations.gov.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and emissions from oil and gas extraction have been linked to various health conditions ranging from asthma to cancer. Many of the commenters asked for a reduction in methane emissions by at least 65 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Related: Biden’s first day: Trump’s methane rule and U.S. rejoins Paris Agreement

Albuquerque-resident David Robertson, who identified himself as a retired engineer and a member of the climate advocacy group New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, said the target can be met with existing technology at an affordable price.

Study: Pneumatic controllers, wellbore liquids unloading make Hilcorp the top methane emitter

Hilcorp Energy, a prominent oil and gas company that operates in the San Juan Basin, has the highest reported methane emissions in the country, according to a report released this month by the Clean Air Task Force in collaboration with Ceres. The report, which was authored by the advisory group M.J. Bradley and Associates, states that Hilcorp’s methane emissions intensity is about six times the national average and, in the San Juan Basin, more than half of the emissions come from Hilcorp facilities. This is important because methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In 2014, NASA discovered a methane hotspot the size of Delaware over the San Juan Basin. While it remains unclear how much methane naturally seeps out of the earth in the San Juan Basin, studies have concluded that fossil fuel extraction is a significant contributor.

LNG proponents say exports could reduce emissions, but critics call it a bridge to nowhere

Touting natural gas as a bridge fuel to help address global climate change, a study released by the Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative (WSTN) states that replacing coal-fired generation in several Asian countries with liquefied natural gas from Rocky Mountain states could reduce net life cycle emissions by 42 to 55 percent, which some groups dispute. Jason Sandel, the chairman of WSTN, said Rocky Mountain natural gas is a “viable fuel for a fuel switch which will have a positive impact for emissions across the globe.”

This would be done by transporting the natural gas to a facility in the Baja California region of Mexico where it would be liquefied prior to transport to Asian countries. “I see, really, more opportunities than I do challenges,” Sandel said, although he said he was not surprised by the results of the study. Sandel described the study as a “first of its kind” in terms of looking at the Rocky Mountain region. He said similar studies examined LNG from other regions, including Canada, and those studies have also shown that it could lead to reduced emissions.

House Natural Resources Committee passes bill addressing orphaned oil and gas wells

A bill that would help states plug and clean up orphaned oil and gas wells passed the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday on a 22 to 17 vote. The Orphaned Well Clean Up and Jobs Act is sponsored by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, a Democrat from New Mexico. “Orphaned wells pose a serious threat both to our communities and our climate,” she said during her presentation to the committee. “They can leak toxic fluids into our water and pollutants into our atmosphere, including heat trapping gas, methane.”

The freshman Democrat said there are more than 700 orphaned wells in New Mexico as well as “countless more” idle wells that could become orphaned. Leger Fernández said when visiting those wells she could taste the metal in the air and see stains around the deteriorated well pads.

Heinrich requests protecting Chaco from oil and gas leasing

Sen. Martin Heinrich sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland requesting an area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park be protected from future oil and gas development. Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, asked Haaland to administratively withdraw the federal minerals within a 10-mile radius of the park from leasing. This would provide time for legislation to be passed that permanently sets the area aside from leasing. Heinrich said in the letter that he plans to reintroduce this legislation and is working with other members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation to do so. 

“As that legislation moves through the process on Capitol Hill, an administrative withdrawal would provide interim protection until permanent protection can be secured legislatively,” he wrote. Haaland has supported such initiatives in the past.