New Mexico Keeps Methane Emissions Fight Alive in 2018
Thursday, December 28, 2017
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The back and forth litigation about requiring oil and gas companies to reduce the amount of methane they release into the atmosphere in New Mexico promises to continue in 2018.
The Waste Prevention Rule written two years ago directed companies to reduce emissions and was set to take effect next month.
But the Trump administration has delayed its implementation until 2019. That led to New Mexico's attorney general and others to join California in a lawsuit, requesting an injunction to force companies to comply starting next month.
Jon Goldstein, director for Regulatory and Legislative Affairs with the Environmental Defense Fund, says suspending the rule is short-sighted.
"Intentional emissions, venting, equipment leaks and other unintentional sources – fugitive emissions – and the combustion of gas, what's known as flaring, results in New Mexico oil and gas operators emitting 570,000 tons of methane every year," says Goldstein.
Energy companies and other opponents say they are independently trying to curb methane emissions and call the federal rules "government overreach."
Delaying the rule will allow oil and gas companies to avoid compliance costs while the Bureau of Land Management decides if it is necessary.
Supporters of the rule say enforcement would not only improve air quality and address climate change, but would provide more revenue for New Mexico.
Goldstein says taxpayers are losing out on as much as $27 million in tax and royalty revenues annually – money that could be spent on education and infrastructure.
"Venting, leaking and flaring of natural gas has resulted in New Mexico losing between $182 million and $244 million worth of natural gas every year," says Goldstein.
About 9 percent of the country's natural gas and 5 percent of its oil are produced on public lands, where the rule was intended to target accidental leaks and intentional venting of methane.
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