OP-ED: Texas Environmental News

New Mexico has fewer oil and gas inspectors than Texas

Oil men in the know have said New Mexico is the cheapest place to drill. And no wonder, as Oil Change International just released a report showing New Mexico oil regulatory agencies have but one oil and gas inspector for every 6,380 wells. Texas has one inspector per 1,650 wells out of 275,000 active. According to Oil Change, 69-84 percent of methane flares in Texas are unpermitted or unknown. No existing or proposed policy governing the Texas oil and gas industry exists that would meet carbon reduction targets necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Without enforcement of rules, or even no rules, the Texas-New Mexico Permian Basin is the Shangri-La for oil wildcatters.

Chemicals contaminating Earth at high speed

From plastics to pesticides to cosmetics to antibiotics, planet Earth now, according to a new report from ScienceAlert, has over 350,000 man-made chemicals contaminating life systems, pushing the planet’s integrity over the brink. Petrochemical production has increased 50-fold since the 1950s and continues to skyrocket. Ecotoxicologist Bethanie Almroth said, “The rate at which these pollutants are appearing in the environment far exceeds the capacity of governments to assess global and regional risks, let alone control any potential problems.”

These chemicals have infiltrated the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere and the biosphere — many of which are “forever” chemicals, creating molecular foundations for the future not even known at this point. The Guardian reported, “Ignoring the problem is foolish, but that is largely what humanity has done.” Professor Sir Ian Boyd at the University of St. Andrew said: “The rise of the chemical burden in the environment is diffuse and insidious. Even if the toxic effects of individual chemicals can be hard to detect, this does not mean that the aggregate effect is likely to be insignificant.” Boyd, a former U.K. government chief scientific adviser, warned in 2017 that the assumption by regulators around the world that it was safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes was false. ScienceAlert added, “The chemical pollution planetary boundary is the fifth of nine planetary boundaries that scientists say have been crossed, with the others being global heating, the destruction of wild habitats, loss of biodiversity and excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.”

Gas stoves threaten human health

Most gas stoves, in a recent sampling by researchers at Stanford University, release both methane and nitrous oxide even when they are turned off. Both gases are known greenhouse gases but they also can negatively affect human health. Attempts to ban gas appliances in new buildings in favor of more climate-friendly electric appliances has failed in Texas, most notoriously when the state government blocked an Austin municipal ordinance in 2021 that would have banned new construction with gas hookups.

A win for environmentalists

In a rare win for environmentalists, a federal court vacated the November 17 Gulf of Mexico off-shore oil lease auction after the judge determined climate change effects on the environment were underestimated by the Trump administration. An earlier ruling in the 5 th District had reversed a Biden-block on the auction. Led by Chevron, Exxon, Shell, BP and Anadarko, over $192 million was bid at the auction. Earthjustice lawyer Brettny Hardy said, “It’s basically a giveaway to industry of millions of acres of the Gulf of Mexico so they can lock in production for years, at a time when we need to be shifting away from fossil fuel development.” Meantime, reports from The Hill state that the Biden administration statistically leads the Trump administration in allowing oil and gas drilling on federal lands. According to the U.S Geological Survey, 25 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions come from burning and extracting fossil fuels from public lands and waters. Meantime, an onshore federal lease auction is set for this month for land in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana.