AP NEWS

New Mexico task force rolls out climate change strategies

November 21, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday reiterated her commitment to addressing the causes and effects of climate change as a panel of experts concluded that New Mexico needs to pick up the pace if it wants to meet its goals over the next decade.

The governor’s climate change task force released its initial report, summing up the first-year Democrat’s climate-related initiatives since taking office. It also details the regulatory pathways her administration is pursuing as it looks to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gases.

Lujan Grisham, in a message included in the report, wrote that the state has an opportunity to serve as an example of balanced leadership as it walks the line between imposing tougher regulations on the oil and gas industry, tackling vehicle pollution and addressing other activities linked to high emissions.

“It is not hyperbole to suggest the stakes are higher than perhaps ever before in human history,” the governor wrote. “New Mexico, as underscored by this initial report and our clear recognition of the work still to be done, will step up.”

At the top of the governor’s list is methane.

According to the report, more than 60% of New Mexico’s methane emissions are from the oil and gas sector. Nationally, less than one-third of methane emissions come from the industry.

Oil and gas companies say they have been working to reduce emissions through improved technology and maintenance and that numbers are down while production, especially in the Permian Basin, continues to break records.

The industry is among those at the table as New Mexico hammers out recommendations for limiting emissions. State officials say draft recommendations are expected before the end of the year.

As part of the effort, the state Environment Department and the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department have partnered with a Santa Fe-based data company to build a more complete picture of emissions using satellite imagery and weather pattern prediction to locate methane leaks in real time.

More emissions reductions are expected with the planned 2022 closure of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station. Electricity production accounts for about 18% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

The Lujan Grisham administration also plans to update residential building codes to require more energy efficiency, incentivize the purchase of cleaner vehicles and invest in electric charging stations and bolster the state’s fleet of electric vehicles.

The governor in September 2019 announced that New Mexico will be proposing and implementing clean car standards that are more stringent that current federal rules.

The state also is installing more solar panels on its buildings.

The report drew accolades from many environmentalists, while some said the strategy should include a clear plan for phasing out oil and gas over the coming years.