New Mexico Permian Basin drillers violate smog rules — probe

By Sean Reilly | 07/08/2024 04:34 PM EDT

The state’s environment department is now seeking to bolster enforcement with the first increase in permitting fees in roughly two decades.

Gas is flared near a pump jack in New Mexico's Permian Basin.

Gas is flared near a pump jack in New Mexico's Permian Basin. Researchers found oil and gas operators in the area are often exceeding limits on emissions of smog-forming compounds. blake.thornberry/Flickr

Oil and gas operators in New Mexico’s portion of the Permian Basin are routinely exceeding state limits on emissions of smog-forming compounds, according to the preliminary results of a joint probe by state and federal regulators.

Out of 124 facilities inspected, 75 had potential violations of the regulations on volatile organic compounds, the New Mexico Environment Department said in summarizing the findings of the investigation launched with EPA last fall.

The alleged violators could now face fines or other penalties.


With a “meager” 40 percent compliance rate, the findings are cause for alarm, James Kenney, the department’s cabinet secretary, said in the release last week. “With the impacts of climate change ravaging our state and air quality degrading, we have no choice but to increase sanctions on polluters until we see a commitment to change behavior.”