Public outcry on methane leaks ignored

By Camilla Feibelman, Rio Grande Chapter director

More than 400,000 people had registered overwhelming opposition to the Trump Administration’s evisceration of the BLM methane rules that would have drastically cut pollution from oil and gas drilling.

New Mexicans participated in national listening sessions in support of these safeguards, then testified at hearings and then commented in support of the final rule. After Trump took office, thousands again commented against a proposed stay of the rule and have now, once again, called on the Trump Administration to protect community health and taxpayer pocketbooks by leaving these protections in place.

Our members, friends and neighbors in New Mexico have stood up time and again to call on the Trump Administration and industry to do right by our state. Industry has used its insider access to upend common-sense, good-neighbor rules that are health-improving, job-creating, and royalty increasing. This state produces half of all of the wasted methane in the country and we’re losing out on $27 million per year of royalty income for our state. That is unacceptable, but once again private profits ahead of the public interest under this Administration.

And now New Mexicans will be faced with two other methane related comment periods as the EPA works to roll back its methane rules. They have a first action to simply remove the “Leak Detection and Repair” aspect of their rule which, as is obvious from the name, is the essence of how the rule would work to stop methane waste and pollution. Following in the pipeline then is EPA’s full roll back of its rule.

If you’re like many Sierra Club members, you’ve written more comments on methane than you can keep track of. Once the rules are finally and fully rolled back, which is likely to happen over the summer and into early fall, our organizations will likely sue to show that there isn’t good technical evidence to justify changing the rules. But we don’t know how quickly the courts will rule or if they’ll decide for us. So the obvious solution is to do what states like Colorado, California, Wyoming and Pennsylvania are likely to do and that is make our own state rules. And even more clearly, to do that, we’ll need to elect candidates to office who recognize the climate, health and fiscal impacts of managing oil and gas waste and pollution. So make sure to attend forums, talk with candidates, and ask: “What are you planning to do about methane pollution?”

Featured image: Reporters film Earthwork’s Pete Dronkers with an infrared camera at one of the Four Corners sites that a NASA report found to be a ‘super-emitter’ of invisible methane gas. Photo by Miya King-Flaherty.

Public outcry on methane leaks ignored
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