New Mexico Fines Oil Producer $40 Million for Excessive Natural Gas Burning
New Mexico’s oilfield and air quality regulators have levied an unprecedented $40.3 million penalty against Austin-based natural gas and and oil producer Ameredev.
The New Mexico Environment Department accuses the company of flouting local pollution reporting and control requirements by burning off significant quantities of natural gas in Lea County.
The burning, which occurred at five facilities near Jal, allegedly resulted in excessive emissions of pollutants associated with climate warming and health risks. Including sulfur dioxide.
According to the New Mexico Environment Department, oil producer Ameredev failed to comply with state law.
By not having a means of transporting the gas away via pipeline. Instead, the company is accused of burning off the natural gas in excess of limits or without authorization in 2019 and 2020.
The excess emissions were equivalent to the pollution that would result from heating 16,640 homes for a year.
Flaring, the open-air burning of natural gas, is typically used as a control measure to avoid direct emissions into the atmosphere. But it requires proper permits and adherence to limits.
In addition to the environmental violations, state oilfield regulators issued a violation notice. And proposed a $2.4 million penalty against Ameredev for failing to file required production and natural gas waste reports.
These reports are essential for operators to demonstrate compliance with waste rules. Which are an integral part of New Mexico’s climate change policy.
The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department expressed concern over the late submission of other required reports.
Consequences and Compliance Measures Oil Producer Ameredev
The New Mexico Environment Department has ordered oil producer Ameredev to cease all excess emissions. And seek permits that accurately reflect its operations, with verification from an independent auditor.
The company will need to rectify its practices to ensure compliance with pollution control requirements. And accurately report its production and waste management. The penalties can be dispute administratively and potentially appealed in court.
New Mexico’s portion of the Permian Basin has witnessed a surge in oil producer due to advanced drilling techniques. However, existing pipelines have often struggled to keep up with the capacity needed to gather and transport the gas.
To address the environmental impact, state regulators have implemented updated regulations to limit venting and flaring at petroleum production sites, aiming to reduce methane pollution.
Recent changes by the New Mexico Environment Department specifically target oilfield equipment emitting smog-causing pollutants.