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New Mexico rules to curb oil industry emissions take effect

May 25, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s new rules to limit most venting and flaring in the oilfield as a way to reduce methane emissions are now in effect.

State officials are billing the rules, published Tuesday in the New Mexico Register, as some of the strongest gas capture requirements in the nation. Unlike other states, New Mexico’s rules also apply to the midstream sector, which collects natural gas from wells for processing.

It took nearly two years to develop the rules. Virtual public hearings were held and state regulators heard from environmental advocates and technical experts from the industry.

The first phase of implementation begins in October with data collection and reporting to identify natural gas losses at every stage of the process. With this information, regulators will then require operators — from those that manage pipelines to smaller wells and other infrastructure — to capture more gas each year.

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The target is capturing 98% of all natural gas waste by the end of 2026. If operators fail, regulators can deny drilling permits.

The rules are one part of a two-pronged approach by the state to address climate change. Still pending are rules being drafted by the Environment Department that would target oilfield equipment that emits methane, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.