NM advocates join NYC march calling for the end of fossil fuels

Environmental advocates from New Mexico attended a march in New York City this weekend to demand the end of fossil fuel extraction and use. The march in Manhattan brought an estimated 75,000 participants from across the country, including about 50 New Mexicans from a variety of advocacy groups. The demonstration came in advance of this week’s United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, which will be taking place in New York. The group of New Mexicans who participated in the march were led by Indigenous and youth advocates who carried an 18-foot long banner addressing President Joe Biden and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that said, “New Mexico is Burning, Biden and MLG: Climate Action Now!”

“A collective of grassroots movements across the state of New Mexico is joining other frontline movements who mobilize around a No False Solutions narrative to bring light to the financialization and continued commodification of our natural and cultural resources,” Julia Bernal, executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance, said in a press release about the demonstration. “We’re bringing a unified grassroots message to the international platform to demand our elected leaders take bold climate action that doesn’t continue the legacy of harm and extraction that has negatively impacted our ancestral territories for generations.”

The advocates also delivered what they called the New Mexico Declaration for Climate Justice to federal and state officials as well as the United Nations.

Pueblo leaders travel to Washington D.C. to defend Chaco buffer zone

Pueblo leaders traveled to Washington D.C. this week to meet with federal officials in an effort to prevent the federal government from overturning a buffer zone preventing new oil and gas, or uranium, leases within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Following the announcement of a 20-year moratorium on mineral leasing on federal lands near Chaco, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that would essentially end that moratorium. Pueblo of Acoma Gov. Randall Vicente said that it is “hard to accept somebody just coming in for the purpose of money to try to take it away and do away with it.”

He asked how long the energy resources will last. “It’s going to deplete and it’s going to go,” he said. “One of these days, there won’t be anything.  And then what are you going to stand on?”

The Pueblo leaders say the buffer zone is important to protecting their ancestral lands.

Gabe Vasquez narrowly won the U.S. 2nd Congressional District seat in New Mexico in the 2022 Midterm Election.

Federal legislation looks to compensate oil and gas workers for health conditions

U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez is seeking to compensate oil and gas workers and their families for health conditions associated with living and working in the fossil fuel industry. Vasquez, a Democrat from New Mexico, announced the new legislation during a meeting with members of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrants rights group, in Hobbs.. Supporters said the legislation, known as the Energy Workers Health Improvement and Compensation Fund Act, is important for Spanish-speaking and Latino communities because many of the energy workers in the Permian Basin are minorities, including immigrants from Latin America. “New Mexico relies heavily on oil and gas revenues, but lawmakers often ignore the grave cost to frontline communities and industry workers,” Marcela Díaz, Executive Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said in a press release. “Immigrant families in the Permian Basin are disproportionately impacted by inadequate enforcement of health and safety standards, long hours, and extreme work conditions.

NM’s environment secretary participates in White House Methane Summit

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney touted the state’s efforts to curb emissions from oil and gas during the first-ever White House Methane Summit this week in Washington D.C.

During the event, federal officials announced the creation of a new White House Methane Task Force. They also spoke about the need to drastically reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industries, which could have benefits beyond climate change mitigation. Oil and gas emissions contribute to health problems in frontline communities. Meanwhile, officials say, efforts to reduce emissions can create jobs with high wages and can help save consumers money. Because of the efforts underway in New Mexico, including the ozone precursor prevention rules that NMED adopted last year, the White House invited Kenney to participate in a panel during the summit called Building a Diverse Coalition for Rapid Response.

BLM looks to modernize, update oil and gas royalties

Oil and gas companies will pay more to drill on public lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management under a new proposed rule announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The proposed rule updates bonding requirements, royalty rates and minimum bids for leasing lands for extraction. “This proposal to update BLM’s oil and gas program aims to ensure fairness to the taxpayer and balanced, responsible development as we continue to transition to a clean energy economy,” BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a press release. “It includes common sense and needed fiscal revisions to BLM’s program, many directed by Congress.”

The primary reasons for the rulemaking are to update the framework in light of new laws modifying the federal onshore oil and gas program and to enhance the program in a manner consistent with the BLM’s multi-use and sustainable-yield mission, according to the unofficial version of the proposal. Royalty rates that oil and gas companies pay on fossil fuels extracted from federal lands are consistently lower than what the companies would pay on state lands or offshore leases. 

Bonding levels also have not increased in 60 years.

A graph showing New Mexico's long-term oil and gas production forecast. The graph is from a presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee on July 18, 2023.

Long-term economic outlook envisions oil and gas funding dropping 

As New Mexico prepares for a transition away from fossil fuels, officials told the Legislative Finance Committee there may be moderate financial gains in the near future. The state is expected to have moderate gains in the next 25 years, yet the oil and gas industry is expected to peak and decline. Department of Finance Chief Economist Leonard Delgado discussed the state economy’s long-term outlook in one of the presentations. The outlook said U.S. oil production is expected to peak between 2028 and 2033 followed by a decline

The decline of oil production comes during a slow global transition to electric vehicles. The U.S. has been slower than other nations to transition to electric vehicles.

Industry wants new pipeline on Navajo land scarred by decades of fossil fuel extraction

By Jerry Redfern, Capital & Main

For the last several months, one of the nation’s largest pipeline operators has gone from one local government meeting on the Navajo Nation to another, outlining plans for what could end up being the country’s longest hydrogen pipeline. At those meetings, representatives from Tallgrass Energy have shown a map indicating the pipeline would run from Shiprock, New Mexico, in an arc across the northern reaches of the reservation to a spot north of Flagstaff, Arizona. And according to reports from others who attended the meetings, the final destination may actually be Mexico. This story originally appeared at Capital & Main and is reprinted with permission. Tallgrass Energy, working through a new subsidiary called GreenView, wants to build the hydrogen pipeline because the Navajo Nation is “blessed with a wealth of natural resources” and “We believe they have the right and responsibility to develop and manage these resources, including projects like hydrogen,” says Tallgrass Vice President of Government Affairs Steven Davidson.

Texas-based company fined $40 million for excess emissions at NM Permian Basin facilities

State agencies fined a Texas-based oil and gas company operating in the Permian Basin more than $40 million for alleged violations of air quality regulations. Ameredev II, LLC and Ameredev Operating, LLC allegedly released “significant excess emissions of five regulated air pollutants from five facilities in Lea County,” according to a press release from the New Mexico Environment Department. NMED and the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department announced separate enforcement actions against the company on Thursday. “Ameredev is a Texas-based exploration and production company that exploited public health for profit,” Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a press release. “Ameredev’s management team have shown blatant disregard for our right to breathe clean air and now they must be held accountable.”

The NMED order requires Ameredev to “cease and desist from all excess emissions” and to obtain permits that reflect the equipment and operations at the sites.

Protestors block roads into Chaco Culture National Historical Park, leading to change in venue for Haaland’s visit

A celebration originally planned to take place at Chaco Culture National Historical Park commemorating the withdrawal of federal lands from mineral leasing was rescheduled and relocated on Sunday after protestors shut down roads leading to the park. The celebration came a little more than a week after Interior Secretary Deb Haaland withdrew federal lands within a 10-mile radius of the park from new mineral leasing, which includes oil and gas development, for a period of 20 years. Haaland was expected to visit Chaco and speak about the withdrawal, but the event was rescheduled and relocated less than half an hour before it was supposed to begin. The withdrawal will not stop any existing leases from being developed, but the Bureau of Land Management will not offer any parcels for lease within the buffer zone. It has been approximately a decade since the BLM last offered parcels for lease for oil and gas development within the 10-mile buffer zone.

Federal government announces funding for orphaned wells focused on public lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a new round of funding to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells on Thursday. This is the second year the federal government has made funding available for the program through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, better known as the bipartisan infrastructure bill. This round of funding includes $63.8 million for remediation of orphaned wells in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and on other public lands and waters. While New Mexico is on the list of states where the National Park Service hopes to have orphaned wells plugged and remediated, it does not say how many wells in New Mexico may be addressed or how much money will be spent in the state from this round of funding. In Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest, 130 wells have been identified for plugging and remediation. 

During a press conference on Thursday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said millions of Americans live within a mile of orphaned oil or gas wells.