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Final Day for New Mexicans to Voice Suggestions on Methane Rules

New Mexico is one of the nation's top three oil and gas producers, and new state rules to limit methane emissions are expected by the end of the year. (sierragrandesierraclub.org)
New Mexico is one of the nation's top three oil and gas producers, and new state rules to limit methane emissions are expected by the end of the year. (sierragrandesierraclub.org)
February 20, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- This is the last day for New Mexico residents to have their say before draft rules are written by the state to govern methane emissions.

The state's energy and environment departments have held public listening sessions for several months, and are expected to draft new rules for extraction companies by the end of 2020.

Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande chapter, maintains the new rules should include the strongest possible safeguards for public health.

"Especially for communities who are on the front lines of these issues," she stresses.
"If you have an oil and gas operation just outside your house, you can be exposed to any number of compounds."

The fracking process used by oil and gas companies causes methane to leak, vent and flare into the atmosphere and associated pollutants can cause various health problems, including asthma attacks and even premature death.

A study released by the journal Nature this week finds oil and gas production may be responsible for a much larger share of methane levels than previously thought.

As early as 2014, NASA scientists noted the largest area of elevated methane in the U.S. hovering over New Mexico's San Juan Basin in the northwest corner of the state.

Currently, the counties of Eddy, Lea and San Juan are at risk of violating federal air quality standards, and Feibelman says many children under five-years old in those counties live within a mile of drilling.

"And you add to that the oil boom that we're seeing in the southeast part of the state -- in the Permian Basin, where methane pollution numbers are exploding -- you see a real need for the state to take action and protect the public," she states.

Feibelman says the abundance of natural resources has long been a double-edged sword for the state. Last month, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association reported record oil and gas revenues that account for more than 30% of the state's general fund.

But booms have inevitably been followed by a bust, and Feibelman says rules to protect public health need to be consistent.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM