With record methane emissions in Permian Basin, questions linger about necessity of the Double E pipeline

Federal regulators are in the midst of an application process for a proposed 135-mile pipeline that would transport natural gas from Eddy County to Waha, Texas. But with oil and gas prices low, renewables on the rise, and a growing methane emissions problem in the Permian Basin, critics argue building a new pipeline in today’s environment is a step in the wrong direction. 

Summit Midstream, the project developer, proposed the pipeline in 2018, when oil production in the Permian Basin was booming. Exxon Mobil acquired about 30 percent ownership of the project, while XTO Energy, which is owned by Exxon Mobil, signed on as an anchor tenant to use the majority of the pipeline’s capacity. In March, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave the project its first big greenlight when it released a draft environmental assessment that found it would have little impact on the surrounding environment and communities. 

The proposed route of the Double E pipeline. Source: Double E Pipeline

While proponents of the pipeline say it will help alleviate some of the excessive venting and flaring of natural gas that comes up with the oil in the Permian Basin, critics argue FERC failed to consider the cumulative climate impacts of the project, particularly the impact of increased methane emissions both in the Permian Basin, where the natural gas is produced, and in the “downstream” market when that natural gas is combusted. 

XTO Energy flares about 5 percent of its production, and is responsible for roughly 10 percent of statewide flaring, according to research conducted by Tom Singer, senior policy advisor at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC).

Oil and gas lobbyists shell out big money in campaign donations

Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians. An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October. By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions.

Balderas joins coalition of AGs targeting climate change

New Mexico’s Attorney General is joining 16 other Attorneys General throughout the country to combat climate change. State Attorney General Hector Balderas made the announcement on Tuesday morning in a press release. “We have been impacted by climate change, and we see its drastic effects in New Mexico—extreme drought, increased risk of severe forest fires, and the ruin of our wildlife and natural habitats,” Balderas said. “Our efforts will ensure that progress is made on climate change and that the public is fully aware of the effects on the health and well-being of New Mexico families.”

The coalition of will work together on investigations; the press release noted specifically investigations into what extractive energy companies knew about the risks of climate change and if they deliberately misled investors and the public. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed records from Exxon over the allegations in November of last year.