As lawmakers convene in Santa Fe for the present legislative session, they face a state remodeled by an oil and gas increase. Expanded oil and gas drilling has made New Mexico the No. 3 oil producer within the nation and is remodeling massive swaths of the state’s panorama.
However, whereas oil and gas manufacturing has skyrocketed over the previous decade, years of funding cuts underneath former Gov. Susana Martinez have left New Mexico’s energy and environmental companies unable to assure oil and gas operations happen safely and responsibly.
The state’s leaders can chart a brand new course this yr by making certain these companies have the assets they need to maintain tempo with business’s progress and defend the well being, air and water of New Mexicans throughout the state. This will imply going above and past the price range proposed for these companies by Gov. Lujan Grisham so as to get very important regulators again on their ft.
As oil manufacturing booms, regulators face a bust
Recent stories clarify simply how dire the state of affairs is for the companies that defend New Mexico’s pure assets and environmental well being. Even as oil manufacturing has climbed 235% and the variety of new wells drilled has elevated 80% since 2011, state regulators have confronted steep funding cuts and employees losses.
- Analysis from the Environmental Integrity Project discovered the New Mexico Environment Department, liable for defending the state’s air and water assets, noticed funding fall 27% from 2008 to 2018, and misplaced practically 10% of its employees over that interval.
- A evaluate from the Groundwater Protection Council revealed New Mexico’s Oil Conservation Division, which oversees oil and gas operations and allowing, skilled a five-fold soar in some allowing functions whereas contending with employees losses of 40% to 60% in key areas. In truth, consultants on the Groundwater Protection Council describe OCD as being “in a near crisis situation” due to monetary and staffing constraints.
- A report from New Mexico Wild illustrates that underneath the Martinez administration OCD misplaced one-quarter of its funding, whereas its mother or father company (Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department) misplaced practically 30% of its funding. Additionally, NMED misplaced 32% of its funding underneath the Martinez administration.
Anemic funding leaves our air, water and well being in danger
Without ample funding and employees, regulators can’t fulfill their mission and the implications inevitably fall on on a regular basis New Mexicans and their households.
We know oil and gas operators are emitting unprecedented ranges of air pollution in elements of the state. In truth, Eddy, Lea and San Juan Counties are vulnerable to violating federal air high quality requirements and over 75% of children underneath 5 in these counties reside inside a mile of an energetic wellsite. Getting emissions underneath management and defending our youngsters means having regulators outfitted to do their jobs.
Getting New Mexico the regulators it deserves will take extra investments
During Gov. Lujan Grisham’s first yr, her administration has made enormous strides to enhance these regulatory companies, together with restoring enforcement authority to OCD and preventing to get each NMED and EMNRD extra funding. However, these companies discover themselves in a deep funding gap after eight years of Martinez period price range cuts, and extra will need to be executed simply to get these companies again the place they had been earlier than Gov. Martinez took workplace in 2011.
For instance, in accordance to New Mexico Wild’s report, if the Lujan Grisham administration price range request for EMNRD is totally funded this yr it might symbolize an virtually 9% enhance from the Martinez administration (accounting for inflation), however nonetheless be virtually 17% lower than the typical funding degree underneath the Richardson administration (2003 to 2011).
The identical is true for NMED the place the Lujan Grisham administration’s request would symbolize an roughly 20% enhance from the Martinez administration, however be 18% lower than the typical underneath the Richardson administration.
These useful resource limitations aren’t only a drawback for New Mexico’s communities and setting, they’re additionally unhealthy information for business
Problems like runaway emissions, oilfield spills and leaks all undermine the oil and gas business’s social license to function and its long-term viability in a low-carbon financial system. Having companies outfitted to implement requirements and guarantee operators act responsibly is within the broader business’s curiosity.
No matter which method you take a look at it, investments in companies like NMED and EMNRD will profit New Mexico. These investments have solely gotten extra vital as growth pressures enhance and the state strikes to meet its dedication to nationally-leading methane guidelines in 2020. These concerns might be key as legislators make funding selections for these companies within the coming month.