Small New Mexico Oil And Gas Firms Fighting New Environmental Laws

Complaints from coal, oil, and gas companies about new environmental laws and restrictions are nothing new. But a recent article published by the Las Cruces Sun News was titled: “New environmental law would cripple New Mexico.” Wow. Sounds a little dramatic, but is it accurate? New Mexico is bigger than just coal, oil, and gas — and considering that two out of three of those industries are dying regardless of any new environmental laws, it’d better be.

According to the article, one firm owner “said that these new regulations put him ‘on a death train, economically.’”

The article — and apparently these oil and gas firms — are taking aim at a new law being considered by Congress. The Methane Waste Prevention Act is a plan to “reduce the amount of the potent greenhouse gas emitted from oil and gas wells.” But that’s somewhat of a mischaracterization of what the law does. Methane isn’t supposed to be “emitted” from these wells at all. 

Any emission is better characterized as a leak — and while leaks might happen, it isn’t absurd to implement a law that asks the companies who are responsible for these mistakes to clean up their messes, no matter how small or large those companies might be. Should we really give a free pass to a messy business just because the business is small?

The article goes on to say: “Small energy producers operating on Navajo tribal lands have to meet the same target as ExxonMobil’s $5.6 billion operation in Lea County. That doesn’t make sense — especially considering firms of all sizes recapture methane.”

But since those businesses are being asked to recapture 99 percent of the leaked methane — i.e. all of it — it does make sense.

It’s not difficult to figure out what these fossil fuel firms (and articles like the aforementioned) are trying to do. They’re laying the groundwork for legal fights against these protections. To make their cases more strategically tenable, they need public support — and to acquire public support, they need to disseminate as much misinformation as possible. 

The reality is simpler. Bills passed by Congress go through a rigid process of review. The consequences of legislation are studied — and while we’ll never know all the consequences of any piece of legislation, we don’t get it too off the mark often enough to pay much attention to junk articles like the aforementioned.

One thing the article does get right is that the new regulations “would also raise costs on energy firms.” Is anyone really still seriously crying over that? Coal, oil, gas, and other dirty methods of acquiring energy have made enough people rich. Renewable energies like solar have already become cheap enough to prioritize over coal and oil — which are now more expensive! And that’s why new regulations make sense. 

But the legal battles against new environmental laws will continue for a lot longer, it seems.