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Media Contact:
  • Hilary Lewis, Earthworks, 202-887-1872 x101, hlewis@earthworks.org
  • Angie Poss, Assistant Commissioner of Communications, 505-827-5762, aposs@slo.state.nm.us

Carlsbad, NM — This weekend, New Mexico State Land Office Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard used optical gas imaging to see normally invisible air pollution from oil and gas operations in New Mexico’s Permian Basin with environmental advocacy group Earthworks.

“We have viewed methane emissions as a lost revenue stream for our school children, but it also poses significant public health and safety issues for our communities. We’ve minimized the environmental impacts for far too long and have missed repeated opportunities to pass meaningful regulation to stop methane leaks and waste,” said New Mexico State Land Office Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard. “With the impacts of climate change knocking on our door, now is the time to act. My office is committed to working with industry to find proactive solutions while fighting to guarantee that real actions are taken to solve this crisis.”

The group visited 12 sites on state lands on Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24. The Commissioner was joined by senior members of her staff including Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs Tarin Nix, Assistant Commissioner of Mineral Resources Jordan Kessler, and Assistant Commissioner of Surface Resources Howard Gross.

The group experienced sore throats, nausea and headaches as they recorded video evidence of air pollution. Optical gas imaging videos from sites operated by Devon Energy, Concho Resources and Oxy USA and images of the group in the field are available for download here.

“While Commissioner Garcia Richard was surprised by the rampant pollution at the many sites we visited, this widespread pollution is, unfortunately, typical of the industry and the region,” saidNathalie Eddy, Earthworks’ NM & CO Field Advocate. “The only part of this trip that was unusual was having a New Mexico state regulator say they were ready to take action to stop oil and gas related air pollution.”

Earthworks uses the same FLIR GF320 camera that regulators and oil and gas operators nationwide use to find and document pollution at wells and facilities. Earthworks’ thermographers have also taken industry-standard training to interpret the images produced by the camera. The camera detects 20 climate and health-harming pollutants associated with oil and gas including methane, a climate pollutant 86 times worse than carbon dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds like benzene, a known carcinogen.


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