Attorney General Hector Balderas
From the Office of the New Mexico Attorney General:
ALBUQUERQUE – In recognition of Earth Day, Attorney General Hector Balderas highlighted the continuing efforts of the Office of the Attorney General to protect the environment, and also provided suggestions on how residents can help preserve New Mexico’s pristine natural environment.
“New Mexico’s natural beauty is unmatched by any state and I will continue to protect our pristine environment for generations to come,” said Attorney General Balderas. “Our Consumer and Environmental Protection Division is hard at work 365 days a year, but this Earth Day you can join our efforts by committing to a water conservation plan, learning about fire prevention and preparedness, or switching to renewable energy or a green vehicle.”
What Attorney General Balderas Is Doing
Over the past year, Attorney General Hector Balderas has fought the Trump Administration’s attempts to gut commonsense environmental protections, and has achieved several important victories. Some of the major battles are summarized below.
- The U.S. EPA’s standards for reducing methane emissions from new facilities in the oil and gas industry
On July 3 2017, the AG in cooperation with other states won a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, blocking an attempt by EPA to illegally suspend this rule for 27 months. The states continue to monitor EPA and industry compliance with the rule, and stand ready to challenge further attempts to delay or weaken it. In addition, Attorney General Balderas has sued to force the administration to stop dragging its feet on developing similar standards for existing oil and gas sources.
- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Waste Prevention Rule, minimizing the waste of natural gas (and emissions of methane) from oil and gas development on federal lands and federal mineral estates. This rule modernized the approach to waste prevention, which had not been revised since the 1980’s despite dramatic changes in the oil and gas industry and technology.
On June 15, 2017, BLM issued a rule to “delay” the rule, even though it was already in effect. On July 5, Attorney General Balderas, along with California, filed a challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. On October 4, 2017, the court ruled in favor of New Mexico and California, finding that BLM’s attempt to “delay” the effective rule was unlawful, and reinstated the Rule.
BLM next attempted to “suspend” the Waste Prevention Rule, in an action hurriedly finalized on December 8, 2017. On February 22, 2018, the same court granted New Mexico and California’s motion to preliminarily enjoin the “suspension,” finding that BLM had not provided the reasoned analysis and meaningful opportunity for public input required by the Administrative Procedure Act. The court thus again revived the Rule.
AG Balderas also intervened in support of the Waste Prevention Rule against a challenge brought by industry and other states, in the U.S. District for Wyoming. On April 4, 2018, that court issued an order to stay implementation of the Rule. New Mexico and California immediately appealed that decision to the Tenth Circuit, and that case is ongoing.
- The U.S Department of Interior Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR) rules to insure that states, tribes, and the federal government receive adequate royalties from fossil fuels extracted on federal lands (the “Valuation Rule”). Like the Waste Prevention Rule, the Valuation Rule updated 1980’s era regulations to reflect major changes in the industry.
On August 30, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted New Mexico and California’s motion for summary judgment, finding that ONRR’s attempt to “delay” the already-effective rule was unlawful.
On September 6, 2017, ONRR issued a final action to repeal the Valuation Rule. Attorney General Balderas, along with California, brought another lawsuit Oct. 17, 2017, challenging the repeal as not in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. The case is ongoing.
EPA’s 2015 health-based standards for ambient ozone.
On June 28, 2017, EPA issued a rule granting itself a one-year extension to fulfill its duty under the Clean Air Act to designate all areas of the country as in attainment or non-attainment with the revised national ambient air quality standard for ozone. On August 1, the Attorney General along with a number of other states challenged this illegal delay in the D.C. Circuit. The next day, EPA withdrew the extension. However, EPA still has not performed all the designations, and the court has maintained its jurisdiction over the case.
EPA’s rules for the prevention of accidental releases of hazardous chemicals. These rules are required by revisions to the Clean Air Act put in place after the 1984 catastrophe in Bhopal, India. In response to the continuing occurrence of chemical release disasters, such as the April 2013 fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Facility in Texas that killed fifteen people, EPA proposed improvements to the rule in March 2016 and finalized them in January 2017.
On June 14, 2017, EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt published a rule to suspend the rule for 20 months, until February 2019. Attorney General Balderas, along with a number of other states, challenged this delay in the D.C. Circuit on July 24, 2017 as unlawful under the Clean Air Act. Oral argument was heard on March 16, 2018, and a decision of the court is pending.
EPA regulations to reduce methane emissions from solid waste landfills. These rules were finalized on August 29, 2016, to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants from municipal landfills. New Mexico complied with the rule in May 2017 by submitting a plan to EPA. Under the rule, EPA was required to take action by October 2017 on such plans submitted by states, but EPA has failed to do so.
On March 23, 2018, AG Balderas along with a number of states provided EPA with a notice of intent to sue within 60 days, to compel EPA to comply with its regulatory duties.
The Attorney General will continue to hold all federal agencies accountable to the law, to insure that precious natural resources belonging to the public are not wasted and that all agency decisions are based on the best available information and due consideration of public health and the environment.
What You Can Do
Drought conditions have returned to New Mexico with a vengeance. As of April 10, 44% of the state was in extreme drought, 32% in severe drought, and 20% in moderate drought. The drought is forecasted to persist for the foreseeable future.
While addressing the causes of climate change that exacerbate drought conditions will require nationwide regulatory and policy initiatives, sustained over the long term, in the meantime you can help mitigate the effects of drought. Individual decisions do add up!
Learn how you can reduce your domestic consumption of water and possibly earn rebates in the process:
Las Cruces: http://www.las-cruces.org/WaterConservation
Office of the State Engineer: http://www.las-cruces.org/WaterConservation
Fire Prevention and Preparation
Severe drought conditions are creating the potential for a disastrous fire season. Obtain information on fire restrictions and learn how to prevent wild fires and protect your home:
New Mexico Fire Information: https://nmfireinfo.com/information/fire-restrictions-on-state-and-private-lands/
US. Forest Service: https://smokeybear.com/en/smokey-for-kids/preventing-wildfires
National Fire Protection Assoc.: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Wildfire/Firewise-USA
Invest in Renewables
Generating electricity with fossil fuels consumes water. You can help save water by generating your own power. Learn how to investigate and plan a home solar system
U.S. Dept. of Energy: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/planning-home-solar-electric-system
New Mexico Office of Attorney General: https://www.nmag.gov/uploads/files/Consumer/Solar%20Disclosure%20Final%20Form%20v_1%20for%20use%20after%201_1_18.pdf
New Mexico Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/ECMD/CleanEnergyTaxIncentives/SolarTaxCredit.html
Switch to a Green Vehicle
Go green by reducing the miles you drive or switching to a green vehicle.
Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles.