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 area, where the nation’s largest methane cloud is, but we are also in a basin that traps smog, which leads to the astounding asthma problem we have here. We can capture the gas and plug the leaks. Oil and gas makes money and people are healthier. Everyone is happy,” said Katee McClure, Aztec city commissioner.
In New Mexico, oil and gas operators reported releasing nearly 200,000 metric tons of methane in 2014. This methane has the same 20-year climate impact as burning four coal-fired power plants for a year or driving more than 3.5 million cars for a year. This wasted natural gas is worth nearly $40 million and could have met the annual heating and cooking needs of more than 200,000 homes.
“Oil and gas companies are releasing millions of tons of methane pollution into our air, and today’s announcement is a step in protecting our communities from the disastrous health impacts of those pollutants. Our children have been footing the bill for this pollution with their health, and this must stop. These rules don’t just protect our kids but create opportunities to put American innovation to work, which benefits both the industry and our communities. These rules are a win-win approach to this very serious problem,” said Chelsey Evans of Moms Clean Air Force.
Today’s action is the first nationwide standard for methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. Methane pollution is responsible for 25% of manmade climate change. The rules are part of a suite of rules coming from the Administration that will help reduce methane pollution 40 to 45% by 2025. The Administration recently concluded public comment on a BLM rule that will address oil and gas operations on public lands, including existing sources, and has committed to an additional EPA rule that will address the millions of tons of methane pollution already leaking into the air from existing sources.
“In New Mexico there are 12 companies that help oil and gas operations capture methane and get it to market. There are companies that help develop the technology to capture methane, and others that manufacture and install. Both the BLM and EPA rules will help develop this technology economy in New Mexico, put people back to work doing the on-site work, and will bring revenue and royalties into the state.” said Glenn Schiffbauer of the Green Chamber of Commerce.
Dangerous methane pollution is responsible for a quarter of manmade climate change, and standards that limit this pollution from oil and gas development are among the most meaningful ways to combat climate change in the short term. Without comprehensive standards, about 70 percent of the industry’s oil and gas wells and other equipment will continue to pollute our air and speed up climate disruption with virtually no oversight.
“Oil and gas operations have been soliciting more and more leases throughout the Four Corners area that is already home to the country’s largest methane cloud, impacting both the greater Chaco area and our communities. Industry should not be wasting this natural resource and then asking for more permits. This rule helps industry be a better neighbor,” said Carol Davis, of Diné Care (Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment)
Dangerous methane and toxic air pollution from the oil and gas industry poses a grave threat to public health. Ozone can travel hundreds of miles by wind. It is a powerful oxidant that can irritate the airways, causing a burning sensation, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Ozone has been linked to a host of maladies, including premature mortality, heart failure, increased hospital admissions and emergency-room visits for asthma sufferers, and possible long-term damage to the lungs.
“I live in the city of Aztec, NM. Our house and neighborhood are surrounded on all sides by 15 or more gas wells that affect us. We experience the health impacts of these facilities first-hand. These rules are a good start, now we hope to see the EPA work on a rule for the existing sources of methane that are affecting our communities right now.” said Sug McNall, leader of “Toxic Tours from Hell” that highlight for people the true cost of oil and gas extraction.