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Environmental Improvement Board

Statewide Campaign Highlights Opportunity for New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board to Protect Children and Public Health From Oil and Gas Pollution

Celerah Hewes, Moms Clean Air Force,, 505-916-1247
Barbara Webber, Health Action New Mexico,

Albuquerque, NM – The communities we work with are seeing the serious health impacts of oil and gas pollution that are taking a toll on all New Mexicans’ air, water, and health. Those who are impacted the most, such as rural communities, children, the elderly, and Tribal communities, are especially at risk. In fact, almost half of all Native Americans in San Juan County—about 22,000 people—live within a half-mile of a well site.

That’s why it’s so important the Lujan Grisham administration is poised to finalize a groundbreaking approach to reduce oil and gas pollution that will hold oil and gas operators accountable for their pollution, protect public health, and combat climate change.

Moms Clean Air Force and Health Action New Mexico have teamed up to launch an English- and Spanish-language radio and digital advertising campaign—in every New Mexico media market—thanking Governor Lujan Grisham and calling on the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) to follow through on her commitment by finalizing nation-leading oil and gas pollution rules this spring.

The American Lung Association gave New Mexico’s top oil- and gas-producing counties—Lea, Eddy, and San Juan Counties—an F grade for ozone in its 2021 State of the Air Report.

  • Oil and gas operations are a significant source of ozone-forming VOCs as well as methane emissions from venting, flaring, and leaks.
  • Well site toxins can worsen respiratory diseases and trigger asthma attacks, and smog can also worsen emphysema and impact the cardiovascular system.
  • Methane is one of the key drivers of climate change. It is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.

Safeguarding public health is central to the mission of the EIB and the New Mexico Environment Department, and they have a rare opportunity to protect the long-term health of all New Mexicans with a single action. As it considers the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) proposed oil and gas pollution rules, the EIB should resist industry attempts to weaken the regulation. We urge the EIB to include key improvements supported by public health advocates, federal agencies like the National Park Service, NMED, and Occidental Petroleum—New Mexico’s second-largest oil producer—that will deliver the strongest possible protections, especially for frontline communities living closest to well sites.

The state’s proposed approach to reduce oil and gas waste and pollution controls includes three elements that could become the foundation of other states’ strategies and guide federal efforts to reduce methane pollution:

  • requiring oil and gas operators to eliminate routine venting and flaring,
  • allowing no exemptions to leak detection and repair requirements, and
  • protecting those living closest to development by requiring more frequent inspections to find and fix leaks.

By finalizing the current consensus version of the draft rules when they meet in March, the EIB can both protect New Mexicans from oil and gas pollution and set the standard for other states and the Environmental Protection Agency as they consider methane reduction strategies.

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