Moms Clean Air Force is a community of over a million moms and dads nationally and almost 12,000 in New Mexico who are united against air pollution and facing the rising crisis of climate change to protect our children’s health. We are hopeful that the candidates in the New Mexico Governor’s race discuss real solutions to the challenges our communities face every day, especially those that have a direct impact on our children’s health. Environmental factors leading to an increase the rate of asthma attacks and respiratory issues are of specific concern to our members.
The challenges and opportunities facing New Mexico over the next four years are significant, requiring strong and smart leadership at the state level, and we thank all of the candidates for their willingness to serve. For the Moms Clean Air Force community, this holds true perhaps most pressingly on the issue of oil and gas regulations. During her eight years in office Governor Martinez has consistently put the oil and gas industry above community health and the environment. Her heedless leadership around oil and gas regulations has put our kids health in jeopardy.
Here are 5 things Governor Martinez has made worse on oil and gas regulation and that need to be fixed by the next governor:
- Create air quality permits that protect our kids from toxic oil and gas pollution. The New Mexico Environment Department under Governor Martinez is jeopardizing our children’s health. Recently finalized revisions to permits for oil and gas facilities allow oil and gas facilities to operate within a quarter mile of schools. That’s too close for industrial operations that can emit benzene and other toxic chemicals. While exposure to these dangerous pollutants is harmful to everyone, pregnant women, infants and children are most severely impacted. What’s worse — these permits fail to establish maximum emission limits or performance standards for these oil and gas sources. Instead, operators of each facility would guess their expected emissions and then choose the control devices to install. This reckless approach from the Martinez Administration leaves all our children’s health up to chance.
- Restore the ability for the state to fine bad operators in the oil and gas industry who break our clean water laws. Because of a lawsuit brought by the oil and gas industry, the agency responsible for enforcement of clean water laws on oil and gas development in New Mexico lost the authority to impose administrative penalties for violations. Furthermore, the civil penalties imposed on violators of the Oil and Gas Act have not been increased since 1935. And in the past eight years, Governor Martinez has done nothing to fix this problem and protect our clean water. Our next Governor must make restoring the ability of the Oil Conservation Division to impose civil penalties on violators of clean water laws a priority.
- Address New Mexico’s methane emissions problem through statewide rules on new and existing oil and gas wells. The overall venting, leaking, and flaring of natural gas in New Mexico results in a loss of $182-$244 million worth of natural gas each year. That results in taxpayers and the state budget losing up to $27 million in taxes and royalty revenues per year. If captured with available, cost effective technologies this would be enough funding to increase New Mexico’s Pre K enrollment by 50% and offer 5,000 more New Mexico kids access to quality early childhood education. What’s more, methane escapes with other pollutants that can increase ground level ozone and impact public health. In fact, New Mexico’s two largest oil and gas producing counties (San Jun and Eddy) currently receive poor grades for ozone smog pollution according to the American Lung Association. And Governor Martinez has done nothing at the state level to address this problem. In fact she has gone on the record supporting efforts from the Trump Administration to roll back federal methane standards. For our kid’s educational opportunities and for their health, we must address methane emissions from oil and gas development in New Mexico through sensible statewide regulations.
- Protect New Mexico’s limited water resources from oil and gas spills. On her way out the door Governor Martinez has worked to weaken oil and gas spill cleanup standards to create dangerously weak requirements for things like toxic benzene, a known carcinogen. New Mexicans, our water and air deserve some of the strongest oil and gas regulatory systems in the nation, not the worst.
- Ensure a stable climate and continued access to healthy water resources. Governor Martinez has buried her head in the sand on the issue of climate change, withdrawing the state from regional efforts to address this problem. Our next Governor must be a leader on this issue driving for economy-wide reductions in both carbon pollution and in methane (itself an extremely potent greenhouse gas) from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of these matters. The members of Moms Clean Air Force-New Mexico stand ready and willing to work with you and the Legislature to advance solutions that help make stronger regulations around the oil and gas industry possible and to protect the health of our kids, communities and environment.
Alexandra Merlino and Celerah Hewes
New Mexico Field Representatives, Moms Clean Air Force