Photo of methane flare in San Juan County courtesy of San Juan Citizens Alliance

Wheeler questions EPA’s authority to regulate methane, putting climate, families at risk

For Immediate Release: August 29, 2019. Contact: Camilla Feibelman, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org, (505) 715-8388

Today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed to eliminate direct regulation of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas, from the EPA’s New Source Performance Standards. In New Mexico, this would mean that 4,700 new and existing wells would no longer have to reduce their methane emissions, endangering our climate and our families’ health. 

Methane is 80 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, but it disappears from the atmosphere much faster, giving us one of the best chances we have of fighting to save our children and grandchildren from the worst consequences of the climate crisis. 

New Mexicans have commented in huge numbers in support of safeguards to reduce methane pollution, first in 2015, when 27,000 residents commented in favor of these common-sense, climate-protecting, health-improving rules when they were first considered as part of U.S. commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement. New Mexicans opposed the first, limited reversals earlier this year and are standing up to ask why the EPA would challenge its own authority to protect their families from a dangerous pollutant.

Below are comments from stakeholders in  New Mexico:

“As the Amazon burns and scientists warn that we’re approaching a catastrophic, irreversible tipping point, it’s unconscionable that the agency charged with protecting us would throw fuel on the fire. Polls show that most Americans — across the political spectrum — want to protect their families from climate dangers, and cutting methane waste is one of the easiest and most business-friendly and effective ways to do that. It’s hard to believe any human being would sabotage that.” 

— Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman 

“It’s impossible to overstate how extreme eliminating the EPA methane rule would be. This proposal is a slap in the face to Congress, which voted against repealing a similar Bureau of Land Management rule thanks in part to its popularity with the public. Even industry leaders like Shell, ExxonMobil, and others oppose repealing the EPA methane rule. With this proposal, the Trump administration shows it does not respect the wishes of Congress, the American public, or even some in the industry. This administration serves only those so extreme in their greed, they would knowingly supercharge the climate crisis to avoid a small inconvenience.”

— Western Environmental Law Center Executive Director Erik Schlenker-Goodrich 

“The proposed elimination of critical national safeguards against oil and gas methane pollution is reckless, and will impact New Mexicans living within a half-mile of oil and gas facilities and every resident of the state already living with worsening impacts of the climate crisis. Earthworks has documented first-hand what an unregulated industry will do to communities and climate. Our optical gas imaging camera allows us to document the invisible oil and gas air pollution that has been spewing for decades. Without strong national safeguards, the commitments made by Governor Lujan-Grisham to cut methane pollution with state-level rules are all the more urgent for the people of New Mexico.”

— Earthworks Field Advocate Nathalie Eddy 

“This administration seems actively to be driving our planet toward the brink with decisions like today’s to roll back methane standards across the board,” said Lucas Herndon, Deputy Director for ProgressNow New Mexico. “This only hardens our resolve to continue working with partners across New Mexico to ensure our state creates smart, safe regulations around methane to protect our kids and families across the state.” 

— Progress Now New Mexico Deputy Director Lucas Herndon 

“This is a fundamental dereliction of one of the most basic duties of the EPA, to regulate air pollutants and ensure that their release doesn’t harm Americans. Methane is unquestionably an air pollutant, and climate change is hurting Americans and New Mexicans today. This proposal is transparently corrupt, immoral, and unprofessional and should be reconsidered immediately.” 

— Political and Legislative Director Ben Shelton, Conservation Voters New Mexico 

“In a summer with record heat waves, Arctic wildfires visible from space and increasingly urgent warnings from the IPCC on global climate change, it is madness to hear that EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler plans to eliminate the EPA’s methane rules. The direct result will be increased emissions of this powerful greenhouse gas by their friends in the oil and gas industry, along with higher profits for them. But the cost will be accelerated climate breakdown for everyone in the near future, with the youngest taking the biggest brunt. What kind of parent steals their kids’ future for a buck?” 

— 350 New Mexico Co-coordinator Jim Mackenzie

“This proposed rollback is an abdication of federal leadership at a crucial time in our history, and makes producing a strong New Mexico methane rule even more important.”

— CAVU Executive Director Jordan Smith

New Mexicans speak out against EPA effort to erase critical climate protections
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