(The Center Square) – New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham claims her administration’s oil and gas regulations have positively impacted the state’s greenhouse gas emissions when compared to less regulated Texas.
The administration cites an “independent” study released by the environmental measurement and analysis firm Kayrros last week. The study said the state’s oil and gas operations emit half the emissions of Texas, per unit.
“Texas’ industry is far less regulated and often results in emissions traveling across state lines into New Mexico,” a press release from the governor’s office said.
The study attributes the difference in emissions to state regulations regarding methane waste and emissions.
“This study proves what we in New Mexico already know: we are doing the right things at the right time to produce the cleanest barrel of oil in the country. It also proves that state leadership matters – and New Mexico will not abdicate its responsibility to future generations,” Lujan Grisham said in the release. “But make no mistake: we are not slowing down to celebrate. We are all in on all of it: whether it’s building a state-of-the-art renewable energy, making more electric vehicles available to residents, shaping a cleaner oil and gas industry, or holding polluters accountable.”
But an analysis by The Center Square has found the study is flawed. According to data compiled by the Dallas Federal Reserve, the Kayrros study undercounts Texas Permian Basin oil and gas production by 25%. In 2022, New Mexico’s Permian Basin oil and gas wells didn’t produce half as much as those in Texas; New Mexico produced about one third as much. As a result, the comparison between pollution in New Mexico and Texas is much less favorable to the governor’s policies.
Kayrros’s press representative has not replied to questions about the study from The Center Square at the time of publication. The governor’s office did not reply to a request for information on the study.
Moreover, Texas oil and gas insiders say that methane pollution there has been on the same decline as in New Mexico. “While there’s no shortage of groups out there who can cherry-pick or manipulate data using inferior technology and biased analysis to suit their interests, the truth is Texas producers are committed to responsible, safe operations, and we’ve seen the positive impacts of those commitments in recent years, said Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent (oil) Producers and Royalty Owners association. “Through continuous innovation and collaboration between industry and regulators, methane intensity in the Permian fell by over 76% from 2011 to 2021 and flaring intensity decreased by more than 34% from 2020 to 2021. That hard-earned progress is the result of an industry-wide commitment to responsible operations.”
While the statistics cited by Longanecker were paid for by his industry group, the study touted by Grisham is also from a group that has taken sides on issues of regulating greenhouse gasses. In its press release announcing the study Kayrros advocated wider adoption of New Mexico-style regulations around the world as well as other measures to fight climate change.
Shortly after taking office, Lujan Grisham issued Executive Order 2019-03 on climate change. It ordered state agencies to make comprehensive rules for cutting emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Methane is 80 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, according to the governor’s office. It usually enters the atmosphere via leaks in oil and gas production, or when operators willingly release or burn it into the atmosphere via venting and flaring.
“I also want to applaud Secretaries Sarah Cottrell Propst and James Kenney for their incredible work to curb emissions from the energy sector in our state. Their efforts have been critical,” Lujan Grisham said in the release.
Cottrell Propst serves as the Secretary of the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, while Kenney is the Environment Department Secretary.
New Mexico’s methane waste rules took effect in May 2021. The rules mandate that all operators must capture 98% of their produced natural gas by the end of 2026. Additionally, the rules ban routine venting and flaring.
Since adopting new venting and flaring rules, New Mexico has seen a 36% drop in gas lost and a 69% reduction in routine venting and flaring, according to the state.
“While the 28 super-emitter events found in the Kayrros report are still too many, we are proud our regulatory efforts and the industry’s response to those efforts,” NMED Secretary James Kenney said. “Our rules are helping New Mexico operators produce a lower-carbon barrel of oil than their counterparts in Texas.”