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: email@example.com.
EPA finalizes standards to cut methane pollution
By Antoinette Reyes, Chapter Permian and Southern NM organizer
After 10 years of work by environmental and frontline communities in New Mexico and around the country, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham joined EPA Administrator Michael Regan at the UN Climate Summit to announce EPA safeguards to slash methane and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas industry, a major win for climate and public health. Thousands of New Mexicans have spoken out in favor of strong methane and ozone rules in the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations. Additionally, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s administration has passed nation-leading methane and ozone safeguards that have provided a strong model for the EPA rules. And importantly for families in New Mexico’s Permian Basin, ...
Methane standards bring big climate, health wins for New Mexico
Photo: 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. CONTACT:
Camilla Feibelman, firstname.lastname@example.org
, 505.715.8388 New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopts nation-leading air pollution rules for oil and gas operators
Conservation, public health, and community leaders from across New Mexico applauded the Environmental Improvement Board’s April 14 preliminary approval of final ozone precursor regulations for oil and gas production and processing. This includes nation-leading safeguards that address equipment leaks and malfunctions that account for 70% of the industry’s methane emissions. This marks the second, complementary set of requirements in the Lujan Grisham administration’s groundbreaking approach to reduce air and methane pollution ...
EPA proposes major curbs on oil & gas methane but must strengthen them
On November 2, the Environmental Protection Agency released critical new draft rules to reduce methane emissions and other pollution from the oil and gas industry. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Methane is also emitted alongside other harmful pollution that puts communities at risk of serious negative health effects ...
Public turns out for smog rules
Eighty-five of you (parents, kids, faith leaders, Sierra Club members) spoke in favor of strong smog rules in front of the Environmental Improvement Board at the end of September. The Environmental Improvement Board hearing lasted two weeks and involved testimony, witnesses, and cross-examining, all while climate and community groups made a case for the strongest safeguards possible. Our lawyers, witnesses and public commenters advocated for some areas of improvement to the draft rule. ...
NM Environment Department proposes improved methane safeguards
May 6, 2021 | News Release
Today, the New Mexico Environment Department proposed
new rules to limit emissions from oil and gas operations in the state by requiring companies to detect and repair leaks as well as control other pollution sources. The new rules aim to elevate New Mexico’s position for clean air regulations on the oil and gas industry among major-producing states from worst to first. Today’s rules combine with companion rules from the state’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) limiting industry venting and flaring of methane targeting that goal. “The Environment Department responded to our call and the call from many community and environmental groups around the state to tighten gaping loopholes in its original draft rule from last summer ...
Senate Passes Resolution to Reinstate Methane Pollution Safeguards
April 27, 2021 Senate Passes Resolution to Reinstate Methane Pollution Safeguards
Washington, DC — Today, the Senate passed (52-42) a resolution that would reinstate the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2016 methane pollution safeguards for the oil and gas industry. The move is another critical step forward in undoing the previous administration’s reckless assaults on vital climate and public health protections. Last night, the White House released a statement
indicating their support of the resolution. Methane, the primary component of fracked gas, is a powerful climate pollutant that is 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet in the near-term. Methane emissions reached record highs
over the last year even as the pandemic shut down significant parts of the ...
130+ Groups Urge Biden to Act on Methane
In a letter to the Biden administration, 134 environmental, public health, and advocacy organizations are urging President Biden to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the full power of sections 111(b) and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to reduce methane air pollution from new and existing sources of oil and gas development by 65% by 2025 ...