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Guardians to New Mexico: Stop approving illegal air pollution permits for oil and gas industry
Citing a recent ruling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Guardians demanded the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, James Kenney, halt the approval of air permits that contain unlawful loopholes.
“It’s time for the New Mexico Environment Department to stop giving the oil and gas industry a free pass to pollute,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “It’s clear the agency is approving unlawful air pollution permits. For the sake of clean air and public health, this has to stop.”
In November 2022, the EPA objected to the approval of air pollution permits for two large oil and gas processing facilities in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico. The permits contained loopholes allowing companies to vent harmful emissions with no monitoring to ensure compliance. The EPA ordered the Environment Department to fix the permits.
In the meantime, the New Mexico Environment Department has authorized and continues to authorize the same venting loopholes in virtually every air pollution permit issued to the oil and gas industry. These loopholes allow companies to routinely vent toxic emissions, like benzene, from wells, tanks, pipelines, engines, and other equipment, with no means to verify compliance with emission limits and assure protection of public health.
The Environment Department has approved hundreds of permits with illegal venting loopholes and is currently weighing the approval of dozens more.
In a letter to the Secretary, Guardians highlighted how, in light of the venting loopholes, sources of air pollution are being improperly permitted under state and federal clean air laws. Guardians called on the Environment Department to review past permitting actions and to immediately pause the approval of new pollution permits.
“Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Environment Department has to stop ignoring the law,” said Nichols. “New Mexico’s clean air is literally being drilled and fracked away, it’s time to put an end to illegal loopholes and to halt permitting more unlawful pollution.”