Shutterstock / Sherry Talbot

Tracking and compliance efforts by oil and gas companies in New Mexico have documented methane emissions dropping by more than 50 percent in just the last year, state regulators told New Mexico lawmakers last week.

Oil and gas companies are following through on reporting requirements for methane released, as regulators found just 56 instances of where operators failed to report data in the past year, out of 60,000 active wells tracked each month, or 0.0009 percent of wells.

“That leads us to believe we have a very high compliance level,” said New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Secretary Ken McQueen, who was speaking before a panel of lawmakers and officials. Department regulators attributed the considerable drop in methane emissions to “advances in technology and changes in the way wells are drilled.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data confirms reduced methane emissions in the state’s San Juan Basin since 2011—a 47 percent drop.

Of New Mexico’s total natural gas production, approximately 1 percent was methane vented or flared, McQueen found.

“Reducing emissions and responsibly producing oil and natural gas is a top priority for all producers and operators in New Mexico, and this data shows that our commitment to protecting the environment is having measurable success,” New Mexico Oil and Gas Association President Ryan Flynn told Western Wire. “Oil and natural gas producers have been leading the way in developing new and innovative technologies to reduce the footprint of operations and increase gas capture, and these market-based solutions are the key to helping oil and gas producers continue these reductions, rather than piling on new regulations.”

Flynn also said that reduced emissions, such as the substantial drop in methane seen in the new report, can happen while oil and gas productions actually increase to all-time highs.

But Flynn cautioned that environmentalists calling for increased regulation on oil and gas production impose costs that have an outsized impact on the energy-dependent state’s revenues.

“These rules cost money,” Flynn told state legislators last week, “and if you’re concerned about making sure that programs for children or for government remain intact and that state revenues go up, then you absolutely need to have a concern about the viability of the oil and gas industry and the devil is always in the details when it comes to promulgating regulations.”

Environmentalists have urged more stringent requirements, even as the future of the federal rule on methane remains uncertain, with Trump administration officials pushing to rewrite the previous administration’s regulation before full compliance is required early next year.

Last month, NMOGA spokesman Robert McEntyre told Western Wire that impediments to oil and gas production in New Mexico, like the extensive permitting backlog for drilling activities on federal lands, were costing the state more than $2 million per day in royalties.

“We found that on average it was costing the state of New Mexico and the federal government about $2.3 million a day in deferred royalties. That’s expensive red tape,” McEntyre said in October.

McEntyre told Western Wire the new data from the state’s regulators demonstrates that “New Mexico oil and gas producers are showing that growing our economy and protecting our environment are goals we can accomplish at the same time, and it is a win-win for all New Mexicans.”

Office of Natural Resources Revenue reported New Mexico received $369 million in fiscal year 2016 from oil and gas production, including “[energy] revenues collected from oil, gas, and solid mineral production on federal lands within their borders.”

Other state documents, including court filings made by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, have revealed the state has received approximately $470 million in royalties per year since 2008.

Bureau of Land Management quarterly lease sales ending in September drew $131 million in New Mexico’s Permian Basin, far outpacing sales in other Western states.