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U.S.-Canada Pact Will Help Clear New Mexico Skies

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A new agreement between the United States and Canada will help New Mexico eliminate its massive methane cloud and bring in more revenues from oil and gas operations. (bashta/iStock)
A new agreement between the United States and Canada will help New Mexico eliminate its massive methane cloud and bring in more revenues from oil and gas operations. (bashta/iStock)
 By Mark Richardson - Producer, Contact
March 16, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. - Environmentalists are cheering a recent agreement between President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that will reduce the release of methane from both new and existing sources.

The leaders signed a wide-ranging environmental agreement last week that will help both the United States and Canada meet their obligations under the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. Camilla Feibelman, executive director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the pact will go a long way toward helping New Mexico reduce its massive methane cloud.

"The Obama administration has agreed to add the final piece of the puzzle to controlling methane pollution," she said, "and they're doing that by agreeing to omit a rule that controls methane coming out of existing sources."

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management instituted methane limits on new oil and gas rigs on public lands, and the new regulations will limit emissions from existing wells. Under the current situation, Feibelman said, scientists estimate that by 2018, 90 percent of methane pollution will come from sources in place just five years ago.

Feibelman said New Mexico has lost millions of dollars in revenue, royalties and resources from both the accidental and intentional release of methane. She also said it is critical to control methane in order to address global warming.

"Methane is 86 times more potent of a global-warming gas than CO2 (carbon dioxide) is over a 20-year period," she said, "so that means that it's something that we urgently have to control, but it also means that is something that we can control."

Feibelman said the new regulations also will bring jobs to New Mexico, since 11 or more companies already are in the state that develop and install the technology to control methane emissions.

Details of the agreement are online at whitehouse.gov.

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