In an effort to pressure President Joe Biden’s administration to enact stronger oil and gas regulations, national environmental advocacy groups have released a new map that shows where people’s health is threatened by extraction. Earthworks and FracTrack Alliance coordinated to create the map using publicly-available data and peer-reviewed science. The map is available online and people can type in their address to see how many production facilities are located within half a mile of their house. According to the map, more than 144,000 New Mexicans live within half a mile of an oil or gas production site. More than 28,000 students attend school or day care within half a mile of a site.
Kendra Pinto, a resident of Navajo Nation, was using an infrared camera to check for emissions earlier this year when she discovered methane leaking from under the ground due to a leak at a well site. Pinto said she reported the leak and, to her knowledge, the well site was shut in and excavated to inspect for the leak. She said such instances are not uncommon at oil and gas sites near her home in northwest New Mexico. Activists like Pinto, who works as a Four Corners Indigenous community field advocate for Earthworks, hope new federal methane regulations proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and will also cut down on the air pollution impacting nearby communities’ health. “Emissions happen on leased land, but the air does not conform to those square boxes,” she said during a press conference on Tuesday.
The oil fields of the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico are quieter since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But that hasn’t made the job any easier for oil field inspectors. As a staff manager and inspector with the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD), Gilbert Cordero spends his days driving a truck around a region larger than Connecticut, checking for leaks in the tens of thousands of oil and gas wells, connecting pipes and storage tanks. This story originally appeared at Capital & Main and was co-published with the Santa Fe Reporter and is republished here with permission. Monica Kuehling, an OCD compliance officer in the opposite corner of the state, inspects wells in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico.
SANTA FE, N.M. – Oil and gas production may be New Mexico’s biggest economic driver, but supporters of legislation at the Roundhouse say the companies need to be held accountable when they create spills or discharge excessive methane. Fines for such violations have not been comprehensively enforced since the state Supreme Court ruled that the Oil Conservation Division doesn’t have the authority. Beyond the environmental impact, said Senate Bill 186 co-sponsor Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Santa Fe, it’s an issue of fairness. “What this does is, it levels the playing field, because we probably have some operators who are good operators and are following the law, and maybe we have some who are cutting corners,” he said. “And if they’re getting a competitive advantage by cutting corners, that’s not really fair.