New Mexico accuses Texas oil firm of air quality violations
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico regulators are going after a Texas-based oil and gas company over alleged air quality violations.
The state environment department issued a notice to Hilcorp Energy on Thursday, saying the company has violated state and federal laws by improperly controlling emissions from one of its wells in the San Juan Basin.
The state contends any natural gas released during drilling must be captured and not wasted. Officials say capturing the emissions can curb the amount of volatile organic compounds, methane and other pollutants that are released into the air.
State Environment Secretary James Kenney said his agency is committed to assuring the oil and natural gas industry complies with rules and permits.
"This creates a level playing field among operators while ensuring public health and environmental protections," he said in a statement.
Hilcorp did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The company has numerous wells in the northwest corner of the state and was already at odds with state officials over a previous request to increase well densities in the area.
New Mexico regulators said their investigation into Hilcorp is ongoing and that the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are requiring the company to submit more data on each of its production facilities in New Mexico to determine compliance.
According to the notice, Hilcorp in February 2018 was accused of venting gas from the well site directly into the atmosphere for 46 hours and failing to route gas to a collection system where it could be reinjected into the well or repurposed.
Hilcorp has argued in previous correspondence with regulators that it was a low-pressure well and therefore exempt from the requirements. State regulators dispute that.
With the notice, Hilcorp has 10 days to set up a meeting with the state to discuss the alleged violation.