After New Mexico Witnesses Speak Out Against Health, Environmental Impacts of Runaway Oil and Gas Industry, Chair Grijalva Eyes New Federal Limits

Santa Fe, N.M. – Following a recently concluded public hearing at which New Mexicans from all walks of life testified to the severe health and environmental damage being done by fossil fuel companies, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said new federal restrictions on oil and gas may be necessary given the industry’s wasteful practices and continued appetite for extraction at any cost. As Chair Grijalva, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Committee Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), and Subcommittee Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) heard today, extraction in the San Juan and Permian basins, which cover northwestern and southeastern New Mexico, respectively, have led to local methane pollution so severe in recent years that public health and environmental quality have been badly damaged. 

Archived video of the hearing is available at http://bit.ly/2U6kCXy.

Approximately 140,000 people live within half a mile of oil and gas facilities in New Mexico. The most recent data show that oil and gas operations in the state emit over 1 million tons of methane every year, which is equal to $275 million in wasted natural gas. The state’s methane emissions are the highest of any in the country and methane and other chemicals from oil and gas development harm the health of local community members, fuel climate change, and result in the waste of a valuable public resource.

“Oil industry executives laugh out loud at how easily they get their way with the Trump administration, and in northern New Mexico we see the dark side of their laughter,” Grijalva said. “Communities are getting sick, sacred Native American sites are being degraded and our climate is taking a beating for the sake of fossil fuel companies’ quarterly profits. President Trump needs to end his oil and gas handouts and restore some balance to federal policy, and until that happens he can expect Democrats on this Committee to scrutinize and challenge him at every turn.”

“I’m proud of this committee’s work to engage with local community leaders and bring stakeholders together to take action on climate change,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. “Climate change is here, and inaction simply isn’t an option – our children’s lives and our culture are at stake. It’s going to take all of us to combat climate change, and nowhere was this more apparent than in today’s field hearing – joined by lawmakers, experts and advocates, and young people.”

“Every community should be able to voice their concerns about their resources when oil and gas companies want to drill. However, the President has skipped meaningful consultation with tribes and outreach to many communities,” said Vice Chair Deb Haaland. “Holding this hearing in New Mexico was extremely significant, because it elevated the issues our communities face. National leaders gave voice to those folks with health impacts, they saw methane emissions spewing from pipes, and they will work to hold this administration accountable.”

“The Department of Interior and the EPA should be protecting public land, public health, and sacred sites like Chaco Canyon – instead, these agencies, under the Trump administration, are gutting regulations and undermining important environmental and health protections,” said Subcommittee Chair Lowenthal. “Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee understand that the protection and voices of the people can no longer be ignored by the Trump administration in favor of oil and gas polluters and we will do everything in our power to hold the president, this administration, and industry polluters accountable.” 

Since January 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has offered 18 million acres of public land for lease and has leased 3.1 million acres of public land to the oil and gas industry, significant increases from the last few years of the Obama administration. The impact of Trump’s blind charge forward on oil and gas is being felt especially strongly in New Mexico, where 57 percent of oil and 65 percent of gas was produced from the federal mineral estate in 2017.

Photos from the hearing are available at https://bit.ly/2PdUR6L

Video remarks from Members of Congress following the hearing are available at http://bit.ly/2ZfImfm