Photo of PNM's San Juan Coal Fired Generator Plant for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter website

By Denise Fort, Research Professor, UNM School of Law
Chapter Energy Committee chair

New Mexicans are well aware that we have the dubious honor of contributing to an enormous methane hot spot that hovers over the Four Corners Area. Methane is a pernicious greenhouse gas and a pollutant that affects health at ground level.

And lost methane means lost revenues, because royalties and taxes would otherwise be owed on it.

The Obama Administration is moving forward with methane regulation. The regulations take two forms: one directed at lessees on federal lands (BLM regulations) and the other proposed by EPA to regulate air emissions from operations on all lands. We work with an active coalition of environmental groups and affected citizens to support these regulations. Four of our five congressional representatives have indicated their support for federal regulation, along with Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Methane pollution is weird. It’s really just natural gas, which the operators don’t find worth capturing for a variety of reasons. Leakage occurs when a well is first developed and is exacerbated in fracking by the use of fluids intended to replace water. It can occur in the transport of gas through pipelines and in the processing of gases. Most visibly, flaring is a means of burning off unwanted gas. But why would a company burn off a seemingly valuable resource? The reason typically is that there are no pipelines near an oil well (oil and gas are often co-produced), and the price of oil is sufficiently high that the company doesn’t want to build a pipeline and capture gas. Poor maintenance practices are also involved, as field research is beginning to indicate that a few outliers are responsible for a large percentage of leaks.

The interests of the oil and gas companies and their contractors aren’t the same as those who own the land (we the people, in the case of BLM lands) or those who receive royalties or other revenues from oil and gas development (including the state). The damage to the earth and our future from these emissions is significant.

What can we do? In the short run, we need to be vocal about the damage caused by methane and companies’ responsibility to stop these emissions. The proposed regulations are good, but not sufficient, so we should anticipate further refinement. Industry is responding with a familiar, and inconsistent, refrain: the regulations are too expensive, and we’re already doing what they require. (Huh?)

The industry may be waiting for the end of the Obama Administration in hopes of a more pliant president. That has obvious implications for us in electoral terms but also suggests that we need to persuade a lot more people that these regulations make sense. For example, the Colorado legislature enacted these controls at a state level. We also need that buy-in from our legislators.

Bottom line: let Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman know if you can help: camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org.


Map of western US that shows methane emissions
The methane rule is under attack yet again. Submit your comments before November 6 ...
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Sandoval County residents: join us in a viewing of the documentary, Split Estate, to become informed about the potential impacts of oil and gas drilling in our county ...
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The Sierra Club and partners filed a lawsuit challenging BLM’s recent decision to suspend key parts of the BLM Methane rule ...
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New Mexicans, Four Corners Residents Testify in DC to Protect EPA Methane Rules
For immediate release: July 11th, 2017
Contact: Camilla Feibelman, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub. org, 505.715.8388 Washington, DC – Yesterday an array of New Mexicans and Four Corners area residents testified in Washington DC against a delay of the EPA’s methane pollution standards. The agency should have implemented the Leak Detection and Repair aspect of the rule at the beginning of June, but attempted to stay these rules for 90-days, and action which a DC court denied. The Washington hearings are part of an additional, formal public process to delay the rule for 2 years. Moms, doctors and tribal leaders expressed deep concerns about ...
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Photo of natural gas fire by Tod Baker for an article by the Rio Grande Sierra Club about oil and gas risks in New Mexico
For Immediate Release CONTACTS: Alan Septoff, Earthworks, 202-271-2355, aseptoff@earthworksaction.org
Stuart Ross, Clean Air Task Force, 914-649-5037, sross@catf.us Hundreds of thousands threatened by Pruitt’s proposal to block EPA oil & gas methane safeguards As impacted citizens testify that ‘stay’ will harm their health, new analysis shows over 200,000 live within ½ mile threat radius of 18,000 affected facilities Washington, D.C., July 10th –On the same day the Environmental Protection Agency takes public comment on Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal to stay for 2 years the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to limit oil and gas methane pollution, a new analysis shows more than 203,000 Americans, ...
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A federal appeals court in Washington D.C. blocked the Trump Administration’s suspension of EPA standards that keep the oil and gas industry’s pollution out of the air our children breathe ...
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NM Groups Glad Methane-Waste Rule is Safe, for Now
Albuquerque, NM - Last week, with three Republicans siding with Democrats, the U.S. Senate narrowly halted a bid to overturn the Bureau of Land Management's natural-gas waste rule. But that doesn't mean the rule's fate has been decided. Comments from Mona Blaber (BLAY-ber), communications coordinator, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter ...
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Hope for slashing methane waste
By Camilla Feibelman, 
Chapter director Common-sense, climate-protecting methane rules have been targeted as the next victim of an obscure tool that President Trump and congressional Republicans have used to revoke stream protections and other air and water safeguards. But the Sierra Club and our allies are building bipartisan opposition to this effort to appease the oil and gas industry at tragic cost. You may already know that methane is a colorless, odorless substance that is also the main component of natural gas. It is also a potent global-warming gas that oil and gas drilling sites accidentally leak and intentionally vent ...
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Climate-saving methane rules at risk
By Camilla Feibelman, 
Rio Grande Chapter director A riddle: What is invisible and odorless and does more harm than carbon dioxide? If you’ve been paying attention to the Rio Grande Chapter’s work over the last year, you know the answer. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is unfortunately accidentally leaked and intentionally vented and flared by the oil and gas industry during extraction, gathering, storage and distribution. In addition to being a devastating greenhouse gas, wasted methane, extracted on our public lands, represents a huge loss of royalties to our state. In fact, over a five-year period New ...
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Public Demands Greater Chaco Protection
On Monday night, 36 tankers storing crude oil and wastewater exploded and burned. According to reports, approximately 10 families were evacuated. According to reports this morning, the fire has yet to be extinguished ...
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Map of western US that shows methane emissions
We’ve all heard what President-elect Trump has said he’ll do to our environment when he gets into office, and it’s frightening. But we’re more concerned about what we are going to do. That’s you and me and other citizens who care about breathing clean air, drinking clean water and leaving a healthy, resilient state for our children. Working alongside our allies at Conservation Voters New Mexico, 350 New Mexico, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light and Western Environmental Law Center, we’re hosting a workshop about the critical methane rules and what we can do next to keep them on the ...
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BLM: Stop auctioning off Chaco to oil and gas
Fracking in Greater Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico is on the increase and causing more health and public safety problems than ever. Please email the Bureau of Land Management Farmington Office at BLM_NM_FFO_Comments@blm.gov to protect these sacred and precious public lands. The BLM continues to promote oil and gas development in the Greater Chaco area, approving 365 horizontal fracking wells under an outdated Resource Management Plan for the region. But the agency is now gathering information for an overdue amendment to that management plan. The Obama administration recognizes that reducing greenhouse gases is key in combating climate change. Hold the ...
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BLM planning smaller Chaco lease auction
By Miya King-Flaherty
Chapter Public Lands fellow Despite a recent explosion that destroyed thirty-six storage tanks on July 11 in Nageezi, N.M., the Bureau of Land Management’s Farmington Field Office continues to lease lands and approve drilling permits. The BLM’s Environmental Assessment reports, which are supposed to thoroughly analyze the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) before approving leases and drilling permits, constantly cite ‘Findings of No Significant Impact’ to the surrounding communities, land, water or sacred sites. The explosion occurred at a newly developed WPX site that caused 55 residents to evacuate their homes — some lost their pets and ...
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NASA study shows methane sources in Four Corners
By Miya King-Flaherty, 
Chapter Public Lands fellow On August 15, NASA released a report that affirms what we already know about the infamous 2,500-square mile methane cloud that hovers over the Four Corners area. Throughout oil and gas operations, methane leaks occur from storage tanks, pipelines and well pads, adding to the methane plume and exacerbating climate disruption. The NASA study identified 250 sources in the San Juan Basin that significantly contribute to the methane cloud. Even more astonishingly, only 10 percent of these sources — also known as “super-emitters” — are responsible for more than half of all methane ...
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Chaco Canyon: Too precious to frack
Our public lands are under siege, and the Bureau of Land Management continues to prioritize oil and gas extraction over our climate, air and water. We need your help to protect Chaco Canyon and the surrounding communities from fracking. http://www.riograndesierraclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/METHANE-CUT-5-SD.mp4 Related ...
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photo of chaco canyon national park entrance for sierra club article on oil drilling in nearby communities
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is Northwest New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, where there are over 56,000 oil and gas wells and processing plants. Last month, NASA released a report that identified natural gas waste and methane pollution as major contributors to the methane cloud hovering over the Four Corners. Now, the BLM is planning to lease 843 more acres of land in the Greater Chaco area to oil and gas developers at a Jan. 18 auction. The BLM’s Farmington Field office has approved more than 360 new wells that use horizontal drilling in the Greater Chaco area under its outdated 2003 ...
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NASA Releases Report On Threatening New Mexico Methane Hotspot
On Monday, August 15, NASA released a study on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. The report, based on intensive aerial surveys and ground crews, is a follow-up on the 2014 satellite report that initially found the “hotspot” in the region, and sought to further identify and explain its causes. The study identified 250 large methane plumes emitted from well pads, storage tanks, pipelines, gas processing plants, and venting from the San Juan coal mine. The new study found that roughly half of basin-wide methane emissions identified in a prior ...
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Climate-protecting methane rules finalized
By Alex Renirie, Beyond Dirty Fuels organizer On May 12, the EPA finalized the first-ever national safeguards on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. And communities across the country, particularly those living in heavily drilled areas, are celebrating this critical step toward protecting citizens’ health and our global climate. The new safeguards represent one piece of a three-part suite of rules designed to fulfill President Obama’s goal of reducing methane emissions by 40-45 percent by 2025, a cornerstone of his administration’s Climate Action Plan. Methane is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 during its first ...
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Map of methane threats in New Mexico by oilandgasthreatmap.com
Albuquerque, NM — On June 15, a coalition of groups released OilAndGasThreatMap.com, a new tool that maps the locations of the 58,777 oil and gas facilities operating in New Mexico and the populations, schools and hospitals within a half-mile radius of those facilities. Peer-reviewed science shows that living near polluting oil and gas facilities is associated with negative health impacts, including fetal defects and respiratory ailments. “The oil and gas industry is recklessly leaking millions of tons of methane pollution and toxic chemicals such as such as benzene, formaldehyde & ethylbenzene into the air, harming our health and speeding climate ...
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Obama Administration Finalizes Safeguards for Methane Pollution
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 12, 2016 Contacts: Camilla Feibelman, 505-715-8388, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org
Mike Eisenfeld, 505-360-8994, mike@sanjuancitizens.org
Joan Brown, 505-266-6966, joankansas@swcp.com
Molly Sanders, 505-554-4115, molly@cvnm.org
Tom Singer, 505-231-1070, singer@westernlaw.org JOINT STATEMENT FROM NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS Albuquerque, NM – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized standards for methane pollution, a component of natural gas, from new and modified sources in the oil and gas sector. These safeguards are the first-ever national standards for methane pollution, a greenhouse gas that is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the near term. Last month, the EPA released its Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, ...
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Moms, community members, elected officials praise EPA methane standards
Albuquerque, N.M. — On Thursday, May 12, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the first nationwide safeguards limiting dangerous methane pollution from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry. These standards are projected to reduce 460,000 metric tons of methane pollution per year by 2025 – the equivalent of 11 coal-fired power plants – and save Americans $100 million annually in costs related to methane and toxic air pollution. “As a city commissioner, but more essentially as a human being, I’m speaking out in favor of accountability, not against oil and gas. I live in the Four Corners ...
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image of press release
For Immediate Release:
Thursday, April 25th, 2016 Contact:
Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club, Camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org, 505.715.8388
Matt Ross, City of Santa Fe, mross@ci.santa-fe.nm.us, 505.795.4169 New Mexico Elected Officials Call For Reduction of Methane Pollution  68 Mayors and County Commissioners Sign Letter in Support of EPA Rules Today, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales joined 68 mayors and county commissioners, 7 from New Mexico, to send a letter to President Barack Obama and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Gina McCarthy urging them to take action on dangerous methane pollution from new and existing oil and gas industry sources. This group of leaders from 13 ...
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Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
Alex Renirie, Sierra Club
Organizing Representative, Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign On April 20th, the Bureau of Land Management will hold its next federal fossil fuel lease sale in Santa Fe at the Courtyard Marriott. On the heels of growing opposition to lease sales across the country where groups are demanding the federal government act to keep fossil fuels in the ground, this is our moment to show that New Mexicans demand an end to the sale of public lands for fracking, mining and drilling! Some facts:
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Interview: Methane Rules Could Impact New Mexico
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just announced a joint effort to cut down on methane leaks from oil and gas wells. The agreement was part of the Paris climate accord and will have impacts here in New Mexico. Public Health New Mexico’s Ed Williams sat down with Camilla Feibelman of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter to talk about what the rules mean for our state. Access the interview here. Featured image: New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, where high levels of methane are released
SKYTRUTH; FLICKR CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 VIA CREATIVE COMMONS Related ...
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US-Canada Pact Will Help Clear New Mexico Skies
Originally posted by Public News Service 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 ...
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Take action: Slash methane pollution on our public lands
The oil and gas industry is profiting from digging up and fracking our public lands. To add insult to injury, the industry is wasting huge amounts of climate-harming methane gas, by either venting it into our atmosphere or burning it off (commonly referred to as “flaring”) at drilling sites. We need strong safeguards to end this harmful pollution coming from oil and gas infrastructure. This is what the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is trying to do with a proposed set of rules to rein in methane pollution on our public lands, but Big Oil puts up a huge fight against ...
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President Obama, Prime Minister Trudeau announce climate-strategy agreement
Leaders Lay Out Plan To Drastically Cut Greenhouse Gases and Grow Clean Energy, Protect the Arctic, and Address Methane Pollution Thursday, March 10, 2016
Contact: Camilla Feibelman, (505) 715-8388, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org
Jonathon Berman, (202) 297-7533, jonathon.berman@sierraclub.org WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an agreement to address the climate crisis, expand our clean-energy economy, commit both nations to Arctic conservation, and address the need for safeguards to cut dangerous methane from both new and existing sources.
The agreement commits both countries to laying out a strategy to significantly reduce greenhouse gases by 2050, encourages the international expansion of domestic efforts to ...
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Map of western US that shows methane emissions
On February 15, 2016, the Sierra Club submitted comments related to the BLM’s proposed Methane Rule. The Methane Rule will clamp down on the loss of natural gas from roughly 100,000 wells on federal and tribal lands. The Sierra Club applauds Secretary Jewell on this action! Excerpts of our comments: The 2,500 members of the Northern New Mexico Group of Sierra Club commend the Bureau of Land Management for the recently proposed Methane Rule. We appreciate the opportunity to comment in support of this long needed revision. For 30 years under the current rule, methane has been leaked, emitted and flared ...
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New Mexicans seize opportunity to discuss recent methane standards
Farmington, N.M. — On Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a public hearing at San Juan College in Farmington, providing community members the opportunity to offer their support for the methane standards proposed earlier this year. Those speaking in favor of the proposed rules outnumbered those in opposition by more than 2 to 1. The recently proposed standards will reduce methane waste from oil and gas operations on public lands, complementing the safeguards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015. In response, a coalition of community and environmental groups released the following statements: “No family should have ...
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image of Oil and gas fields near Chaco
Friday, Jan. 22, is a promising day for New Mexico taxpayers and for our health and climate. On Friday morning, most of New Mexico’s congressional delegation sent a letter urging EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to not only strengthen and finalize its rule to reduce methane waste from new oil and gas drilling operations, but to issue a new rule addressing existing sources. New Mexico’s senators and U.S. Reps. Ben R. Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham noted the health benefits of reigning in the tons of escaped methane from thousands of oil and gas operations in New Mexico, as well as ...
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Map of western US that shows methane emissions
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, December 1, 2015 Contact: Camilla Feibelman, Rio Grande Chapter Director, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org, 505.715.8388 Resources: Power Point Presentation | Video of Methane Venting in Aztec NM A coalition of groups from around the state announced Tuesday that more than 25,000 New Mexicans have submitted comments in support of Obama Administration safeguards that would help to reduce dangerous methane leakage from oil and gas operations around the country. Citizens have until Friday, Dec. 4, to comment and can do so at www.sc.org/CutMethane “More than 25,000 New Mexicans have joined over 700,000 people throughout the country in support of the President’s efforts to control ...
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Photo of PNM's San Juan Coal Fired Generator Plant for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter website
Denise Fort, Research Professor, UNM School of Law; Chapter Energy Committee chair New Mexicans are well aware that we have the dubious honor of contributing to an enormous methane hot spot that hovers over the Four Corners Area. Methane is a pernicious greenhouse gas and a pollutant that affects health at ground level. And lost methane means lost revenues, because royalties and taxes would otherwise be owed on it. The Obama Administration is moving forward with methane regulation. The regulations take two forms: one directed at lessees on federal lands (BLM regulations) and the other proposed by EPA to regulate ...
Read More

Chaco leasing continues

Chaco leasing continues
By Teresa Seamster, Northern New Mexico Group, and Robert Tohe, Our Wild America A massive surge of approvals by BLM and the Oil Conservation Division for oil companies like WPX and Encana to drill closer to native communities near Chaco Canyon led to a recent meeting of concerned groups with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s legislative staff in Santa Fe. Sierra Club, Navajo allottee and former councilor Daniel Tso, staff member Robert Tohe and Western Environmental Law Center advocates met with Udall staffer Anthony Sedillo in September, detailing the problems faced by Navajo residents in the Lybrook, Counselor and Nageezi communities ...
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coal mine
The Obama Administration on Aug. 18 introduced the first-ever proposed methane pollution standards for new and modified oil and gas facilities, a landmark announcement that will blunt the projected growth of methane and smog-forming pollution produced by the industry in New Mexico. The newly proposed standards will help to safeguard public health and put the United States closer to being on track to meet the Administration’s goal of reducing oil and gas methane pollution by 40 to 45 percent by 2025. “New Mexicans were shocked to hear about the country’s biggest methane plume over the Four Corners area last year. Since ...
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photo of chaco canyon national park entrance for sierra club article on oil drilling in nearby communities
By Teresa Seamster, Northern New Mexico Group How can oil-drilling leases cause the loss of an individual’s safety, private property and ability to follow religious practices? The greater Chaco area in northwest New Mexico’s San Juan Basin is experiencing a ramping up of oil and gas development that has shaken residents with multiple impacts. A stretch of federal highway that runs through Counselor, Lybrook and Nageezi and a web of new dirt access roads to well pads near these small communities along US 550 have made local travel slow, congested and often dangerous.
In January, a hot oil truck crashed ...
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New Mexico at center of Obama's climate-change proposal
By Troy Wllde, Public News Service New Mexico may be among the states most impacted by President Barack Obama's effort to regulate and reduce methane gas emissions. Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the advocacy group San Juan Citizens Alliance, says NASA released a report last year that shows the Four Corners region is a hot spot, responsible for producing the largest concentration of methane seen over the United States. He says the proposed regulations should be implemented with extra focus placed on New Mexico. "We need to know why the Four Corners region is the methane hot spot ...
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