Methane: New Rules Coming for NM's Invisible Pollutant
Monday, December 14, 2020
SANTA FE, N.M. -- Environmentalists in New Mexico celebrated progress made during the Obama administration to stop pollution from oil and gas.
But President Donald Trump gutted those rules, and conservationists say that's why the state needs its own robust safeguards.
Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, is hopeful the incoming Biden administration will restore rules to reduce methane waste and pollution by 65% by 2025 from 2012 levels.
"Right now a quarter of the global warming we're experiencing is caused by methane emissions," Feibelman explained. "And when this stuff is leaked or vented or flared, royalties don't come into the federal government and to the state government."
New Mexico oil and gas regulators will begin meetings next month to codify new regulations on methane and natural-gas emissions and take testimony.
Feibelman encouraged residents to comment on the proposed draft ahead of Jan. 4, or attend the virtual meeting that day.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she wants New Mexico to be the nation's leader on rules governing methane and ozone even as state tax revenues generated by the industry traditionally have funded up to 40% of the state budget.
Nathalie Eddy, an oil and gas field advocate attorney for Earthworks in New Mexico, said right now there isn't enough on-the-ground oversight.
"There are about 11 inspectors in New Mexico and there are 57,000-plus sites," Eddy outlined. "So New Mexico regulators are sorely outnumbered and limited in what they can do."
Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said more than one million tons of methane are released from oil and gas sites in New Mexico each year, valued at $271 million.
"If the state were capturing that, and putting it to good use, that would be about $43 million a year, every year in revenue, additional revenue, to the state budget," Goldstein argued.
The American Lung Association's "State of the Air 2020" report gave failing grades for ozone pollution to New Mexico's Eddy, Lea and San Juan counties.
Disclosure: Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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