For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, November 11th
EPA Releases Improved Safeguards to Ensure Oil and Gas Operators Monitor and Stop Climate-Warming Methane Leaks
Supplemental Rule Includes Smaller Operators In Monitoring In A Win For Communities And Climate
Albuquerque, NM – Today, in advance of President Biden appearing on the world stage at the COP27 Climate Conference, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a supplemental rule proposal that would establish strong, commonsense protections against methane and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas industry. This proposal improves upon a draft rule that EPA issued last November to curb methane from the oil and gas sector. A strong methane rule will help the United States meet its more ambitious emissions reduction commitments expected to be unveiled at COP27, and will go a long way in protecting the air families who are surrounded by oil and gas pollution on a daily basis have to breathe.
Methane is a potent greenhouse more than 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, driving about a quarter of the warming our planet has experienced to date. Each year, the U.S. oil and gas sector emits 16 million metric tons of methane into our atmosphere. Additionally, methane is emitted from oil and gas sources alongside other damaging pollutants, such as smog- and soot-forming volatile organic compounds and carcinogens like benzene and formaldehyde.
Federal rules will build on strong New Mexico state safeguards. The Oil Conservation Division (OCD) at the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department went into effect in May 2021 and ban routine venting and flaring. The New Mexico Environment Department’s Ozone Precursor rules went into effect this summer. These rules require oil and gas operators to inspect all wells for leaks on a frequent basis without exemptions and protect those living closest to oil and gas by requiring more frequent inspections to find and fix leaks in proximity to homes and schools. Meanwhile the Independent Petroleum Association of NM has sued over these rules on issues where they failed to provide any witnesses or testimony during the rulemaking proceeding at the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB).
Statements on the EPA rule release:
“This updated rule comes as a welcome reprieve to those of us living in the most prolific oil field in the United States, the Permian Basin. We’re happy to see the EPA following the lead of New Mexico by adopting strong rules that not only cut methane pollution, but also allow those of us in frontline communities to breathe easier. We hope that these rules can be implemented and enforced swiftly, as the Permian faces down ozone pollution levels that are in violation of the Clean Air Act.”
— Kayley Shoup, Citizens Caring for the Future
“Of the 35,000 New Mexicans living within 1,000 feet of an oil well site, over 2,700 are children under the age of five, and 19,000 are people of color. The EPA’s revised rule to cut methane and other harmful pollutants will make a real difference in the health and safety of frontline communities. It includes key provisions requiring equipment that doesn’t emit pollution and inspections of smaller wells with leak-prone equipment. And while we appreciate the EPA’s initial steps to address flaring, we call on the EPA to ensure the final rule ends all pollution from routine flaring. We need both the EPA and tribal governments to act to protect our climate and health.”
– Wendy Atcitty, Diné Energy Organizer, Naeva
“For energy states like New Mexico that are also joint-use land states that must balance public, state, and private lands, having federal rules that closely align with our own strong state rules brings much-needed clarity to local communities that the air we breathe is a priority to whichever agency is charged with that oversight.”
— Lucas Herndon, Energy Policy Director, ProgressNow New Mexico.
“EPA’s updated rule is a major step in the right direction. For years, methane leaks from oil and gas drilling in the Permian Basin have plagued New Mexico’s national parks and communities. In fact, recent reporting showed that Permian companies emit nearly 1.4 million metric tons of methane each year. This pollution inflicts damage on the communities, fragile ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife in and around Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and threatens the health of people in New Mexico and beyond. By ensuring strong and lasting cuts in methane waste and pollution across the country, the EPA can combat the climate crisis, benefit New Mexico’s economy, and guarantee future generations can experience our national parks.”
— Emily Wolf, New Mexico Senior Program Coordinator, National Parks Conservation Association
“New Mexico’s oil and gas methane and smog standards have been a real example for the federal safeguards that came out this morning. We were encouraged to see the Biden rules strengthened in key ways that will protect our communities, especially in areas, like Texas, where meaningful protections are entirely lacking.”
— Camilla Feibelman, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director
“The EPA’s supplemental rule represents a significant step forward in U.S. efforts to curb the worst effects of climate change. We appreciate that EPA listened to the vast amount of public input it received on last year’s draft proposal and is proposing measures to ensure the rule’s air quality and public health benefits are felt where they are most needed, in frontline communities like those in the Permian Basin and the Four Corners.”
— Tannis Fox, senior attorney, Western Environmental Law Center
Featured image: Marathon Oil, side by side visible and infrared photos of flaring, photo by Justin Wasser of Earthworks