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Environmental groups step in to stop oil and gas rule appeal

Vaca Energy
Sarah Craig
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Noxious fumes are released into the air at an industrial site. The fumes come from thick crude oil mined from tar sands that is incredibly dirty to burn, thus contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

New rules recently implemented by the state aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are being challenged by an industry group.

Environmental organizations are now stepping in to stop that appeal, claiming it would harm communities of color across the state.

The rules target venting, flaring, and methane leaks from oil and gas production and require testing to detect them.

The Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico seeks to challenge the new rules in court, specifically objecting to new methane leak detection provisions.

The rule requires wellhead sites within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, and businesses to be screened for methane leaks on a quarterly basis––that’s more than what’s normally required.

Spearheading the effort to stop the appeal is Tannis Fox, Senior Attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. She says this testing is necessary.

“These facilities leak like a sieve," Fox said. 

Fox said these air pollutants directly affect approximately 35,000 New Mexicans living near wells, and 19,000 of them are people of color.

“They can potentially affect every organ in the body,” said Fox. “Respiratory, cardiovascular, skin…”

The formal process for the appeal is just getting started, and will eventually reach the Court of Appeals, where the decision may take anywhere from months to a year to be finalized. Until then, the new rules remain unchanged.

Bryce Dix is our new local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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