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Report: New Mexico Leaders Must Lead on Environment

A new report says New Mexico lawmakers need to strengthen air and water quality regulations. (
A new report says New Mexico lawmakers need to strengthen air and water quality regulations. (
January 29, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new report says New Mexico's political leaders need to fill the void left by the federal government's retreat on public health protections.

Produced by the Environmental Defense Fund,"Enchantment at Risk" outlines how environmental pollutants negatively impact state residents.

Jon Goldstein, EDF’s director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, says since Gov. Susana Martinez took office, spending on environmental protection has been cut by 20 percent.

"The state has some of the worst requirements in the nation currently regulating oil and gas development and ensuring that air and water quality are protected from drilling for oil and gas," Goldstein points out.

Goldstein says requirements in surrounding states such as Utah, Wyoming and Colorado are much stricter.

The report calls on state leaders to hold violators accountable, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change and step up when the federal government steps back.

Goldstein says since a Supreme Court case brought by the oil and gas industry in 2009, New Mexico has been unable to effectively fine companies that violate the Oil and Gas Act, a problem that needs to be solved at the state Legislature.

"The Oil Conservation Division currently doesn't have the power to do an administrative fine of them, it's sort of like a traffic cop that can't write a speeding ticket,” Goldstein explains.

A revival of crude oil production in the Permian Basin means New Mexico is now the third largest producer behind North Dakota and Texas.

The E-D-F has estimated that New Mexico could reap $27 million in revenue annually if proposed rules to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas were adopted at the federal level.

"Unfortunately, the Trump administration in Washington is fighting tooth and nail to roll back those rules and to get rid of them at the behest of the oil and gas industry, and so there's an opportunity for New Mexico to kind of step up," Goldstein states.

Adding to the state's limited rules, Goldstein say since taking office, the Trump administration has been aggressively rolling back Environmental Protection Agency regulations, repealing what it calls the “so-called” Clean Power Plan and revising the Clean Water Rule.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM