Around NM: Spring runoff, planning trouble on the Gila, oil boom and more

If you haven’t gone out to look at the Rio Grande, no matter where along its banks you live, now’s the time. The snowmelt is pouring down the channel, causing the river to overbank in lots of places throughout the Middle Rio Grande Valley. In southern New Mexico, the normally dry channel is also running as water managers are moving water from reservoirs to southern New Mexico fields and orchards and to Texas. Speaking of snowmelt, March was an exceptionally warm month in New Mexico. According to the National Weather Service, 143 record-high temperatures were broken across 34 weather stations on 15 days.

City gave ranch million-dollar water discount, documents show

This story was reported in partnership with the Jal Record, a weekly newspaper based in southeastern New Mexico. JAL—Like many areas in New Mexico, water is in short supply in this southeastern oil patch town of 2,500 people. In the past few years, city officials have tried to address the matter by limiting water use, including barring businesses from buying city water for industrial use in the summer of 2013. But between 2012 and 2014, the city gave one ranch an unusual perk—a more than $1 million discount on its water bills. On top of this, Jal continued to sell industrial water to Beckham Ranch, Inc. for six months after the ban went into effect.

Report: Two NM regions among top five for methane emissions

New Mexico’s two biggest energy-producing regions are two of the most-polluted in the nation when it comes to methane emissions, according to a study released today. Both the San Juan Basin and the Permian Basin rank as the third and fourth most methane polluted regions in the country, according to the Washington D.C.-based progressive think tank Center for American Progress’ “The Who’s Who of Methane Pollution” report. The report is based on 2014 data from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The San Juan Basin, located mostly in northwestern New Mexico, emits the most methane per well in the country. Methane emissions are commonly viewed as a greenhouse gas more harmful than carbon dioxide and the report underlines this point and pushes the federal government for strong regulations limiting them.

Low oil prices prompt bills to reduce some industry taxes

As energy prices remain low, a handful of New Mexico lawmakers will attempt to lower taxes on some oil and gas production this upcoming legislative session. Two bills, one in each chamber, target tax relief for specific types of oil and gas extraction. In the state House of Representatives, James Strickler, R-Farmington, pre-filed a bill to increase the threshold of oil prices to qualify for an existing state tax incentive. In the Senate, Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, has a bill to reduce the severance tax rate on oil extraction. Both lawmakers say they filed their bills in response to stubbornly low oil prices that they say have hurt the state’s oil and gas industry.

Far from heaven: Fatalities, crime and rents rise alongside oil production

© New Mexico Political Report, 2015. Contact editor@nmpoliticalreport.com for info on republishing. Part two in a series of two. Click here for part one. On a two-lane New Mexico state road, the number of heavy commercial trucks and semis roaring southeast between the villages of Loving and Jal tops 200 in under an hour.

Dark Gold: New Mexico’s oil patch grapples with industry impacts

© New Mexico Political Report, 2015. Contact editor@nmpoliticalreport.com for info on republishing. This story is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here. Eddy County, NM, was a sleepy, low-key place when retired teacher Vickie Connally and her family moved to their little ranch in Loving south of Carlsbad years ago.