By Camilla Feibelman,
Rio Grande Chapter director
With the election of both a governor and a state land commissioner committed to curbing oil and gas waste and pollution through state methane rules and leasing changes came the news that New Mexico has among the worst methane protections in the country.
The Wilderness Society and Taxpayers for Common Sense published a report providing a comprehensive analysis of state regulations for managing natural-gas waste across the eight states with the most federal oil and gas leasing and production. Each state’s guidelines are compared to nine major provisions of the 2016 Bureau of Land Management Waste Rule.
The 2016 rule established a complete suite of safeguards that would substantially reduce gas waste and methane emissions from public lands. It was repealed by the Trump administration and replaced with a rule that relies almost entirely on any state regulations that already exist. But in New Mexico, and most states, we don’t have any state regulations.
Meanwhile the EPA took a final step to gut their own methane-reducing rule. The Clean Air Act at least required them to hold a public hearing, which took place in November in Denver. Our coalition sent eight New Mexicans to testify at the hearing. Lori, 10 years old and an active member of Global Warming Express (photo at top) traveled with her mom, along with Rev. Jim Therrien of the Lybrook Community Ministries from the TriChapter area of the Navajo Nation. Robyn Jackson represented DinéCare. Gloria Lehmer, a Farmington-area resident, testified as a resident on the front lines. And Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Fellow Derrick Toledo and UNM Sierra Student Coalition President Keely Scheffler brought both the Native American and youth perspectives.
If you can believe it, we’re expecting a third, bigger methane rollback at the federal level, where the EPA would essentially argue that it doesn’t have the authority to regulate methane. More to come in the new year…and of course this leaves us back where this article started, which is the very deep need for state methane protections.
A recent USGS report showed vast untapped resources larger than anything the agency has seen in recent history that will likely continue to feed the oil boom in Southern New Mexico’s Permian Basin, making it and the state one of the largest oil producers in the country and the world.
State rules will likely be developed administratively but will require important legislation to restore the Oil Conservation Division’s authority to fine oil and gas violators. To help on this, please join our grassroots lobby effort.