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NM Residents Provide EPA with Real-World Methane Stories

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Fifty New Mexico residents are providing comments at listening sessions hosted this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as it crafts new rules to tackle methane and other pollution from oil and gas operations. The Trump administration directed the EPA to roll back Obama-era limits on methane.

Kayley Shoup, an organizer for the Carlsbad group Citizens Caring for the Future, lives near the Permian Basin, the nation's most active oil and gas region. She'll participate in today's EPA listening session.

"Here in New Mexico, we have regulation but there's virtually no enforcement," she said. "We have not one air inspector that lives in the Permian Basin, and we have one air monitor in the little town I live in."

Shoup said she believes her mother's rare cancer at age 50 may have been related to air pollution in the region from methane emissions. In April, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to reinstate 2016 safeguards, and the House is expected to vote on a similar resolution next week.

Don Schreiber's New Mexico ranch in the Four Corners region is surrounded by 122 oil and gas wells. He offered the EPA comments on Tuesday, thanking them for rules enacted in 2012 governing venting and leaking of methane emissions at well sites, and stressing what a difference the rules made. Schreiber, who spoke to hearing participants in front of a well on his property, said that since the rules were suspended, he's experienced a level of hopelessness.

"It's not something we can fix ourselves," he said. "We cannot shut that leak off. We cannot stop them from venting. We can't even stop them from drilling, in most cases, on our own land."

A joint report in April by the Environmental Defense Fund and the journal Science Advance found Permian oil and gas operations lost methane at a rate of nearly 4% of their gas production, releasing enough methane to supply 2 million homes.

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.


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