Environmental groups say an EIS is needed for the San Juan carbon capture project

A group of nine environmental organizations sent a letter to the Department of Energy secretary requesting the initiation of a multi-agency environmental impact statement looking at Enchant Energy’s proposal to retrofit the San Juan Generating Station with carbon capture technology. If an EIS is required, it would delay the project substantially, but the environmental advocates point out that similar projects have gone through the process. The carbon capture retrofit will prevent the loss of tax revenue in San Juan County and preserve jobs at the coal mine and power plant. However, critics say it is an expensive project and it is unclear who will buy the electricity if it is successful. 

Related: Critics: San Juan Generating Station carbon capture proposal ‘overly optimistic’

“Enchant Energy is actively working on securing the environmental and other permits needed for the project to add carbon capture at San Juan Generating Station with the appropriate federal, state, and local agencies,” said company CEO Cindy Crane in a statement emailed to NM Political Report. “This project directly addresses the need for sustainable, reliable, low-carbon power generation necessary to meet climate change emissions goals.

Why energy companies are drilling for a greenhouse gas in New Mexico

Trapped underground in the sandstone of northeastern New Mexico sits one of the largest naturally occurring carbon dioxide reservoirs in the nation called the Bravo Dome. 

The 1,400 square mile gas field in rural Harding and Union counties is one of a handful of its kind in the United States. They make up a small but critical piece of the nation’s oil drilling operations — one that has bipartisan support and could increase under the Biden administration. 

Most of the carbon dioxide extracted from places like the Bravo Dome is piped to oil fields where it’s injected into wells to force out the last dregs of oil in a process called enhanced oil recovery. However, carbon dioxide extraction raises scores of environmental and climate issues — including the potential for massive releases of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. And the companies that drill for the gas in New Mexico have questionable records when it comes to dealing with landowners. 

Why drill for CO2? Democrats and Republicans alike have supported enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, in which carbon dioxide and water are pumped into wells to help extract remaining oil to the surface.

Oil Conservation Commission will take up well density issue later this fall

The New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission delayed a decision to approve an energy company’s request to increase well density in two northern New Mexico counties. At its meeting on Thursday, the commission also rejected a community group’s request to intervene in the hearing. Hilcorp Energy Company’s Justin Furnace emailed a statement on Thursday evening. “The Commission made it clear today that the application has merit, but at the Commission’s request, Hilcorp will be re-notifying affected operators in the San Juan Basin to ensure that they are aware of the proposed change,” Furnace wrote. Hilcorp asked the state to amend the “pool rule,” or well density requirements, in the Blanco-Mesaverde Gas Pool in San Juan and Rio Arriba counties. Under the current rules, companies can drill four wells within the designated 320-acre spacing units, and only two can be drilled within each 160-acre section.

Toxic threat: Gold King one of thousands of abandoned mines

FARMINGTON, N.M. – Thousands of abandoned mines in New Mexico, Colorado and other Western states pose as much of a toxic threat, or greater, as the Gold King Mine in Colorado, which leaked three million gallons of toxic sludge and mine waste into the Animas River following an accidental discharge last week. Part of the larger Colorado River system, the Animas is a tributary of the San Juan River, which flows into Lake Powell and mixes with Colorado River water. Farmington is among several downstream communities devastated by the spill. Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizens Alliance says the Gold King Mine spill is just a sample of the threat posed by century-old abandoned mines. “There’s probably about 20,000 historic, abandoned mines in the Four Corners area,” he says.

Lawsuit alleges BLM allowed Chaco fracking without proper impact analysis

President Theodore Roosevelt declared Chaco Canyon to be an historical monument on March 11, 1907, and 108 years later to the day, a coalition of environmental groups leveled a lawsuit against the federal government alleging inadequate protection of the area. John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, said on Wednesday that the timing was coincidental but appropriate, representing “another important milestone in the effort to protect Greater Chaco.” The primary threat to Chaco Canyon in Roosevelt’s time was looting of archaeologically and culturally precious sites, said Horning. “Today the threat is oil and gas development and fracking in particular.” Horning said the groups who brought the lawsuit hope to not only halt industry activity in the Chaco area, but to set “the foundation for a much better movement.”