US moves back, NM forward on methane

By Camilla Feibelman, Chapter Director

On August 29, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed to eliminate direct regulation of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.

This is the latest in a series of efforts to dismantle safeguards against oil and gas pollution and environmental protections in general. In New Mexico, this would mean that 4,700 new and existing oil and gas wells would no longer have to reduce their methane emissions, endangering our climate and our families’ health.

Methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, but it disappears from the atmosphere much faster when emissions are reduced, giving us one of the best chances we have of protecting our children and grandchildren from the disastrous consequences of runaway climate change. With methane, other smog and asthma causing substances are emitted that methane rules would also prevent.

Carlsbad residents testify at a NM stakeholder meeting. Photo by Antoinette Reyes.

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.

The public now has until November 25 to submit comments on these rollbacks and can attend a public hearing in Dallas on October 29. To comment and learn more please visit our methane page.

Despite the rollbacks of these rules that were the legs of this country’s Paris Climate agreements, we have some hope here in New Mexico given that the State Government has initiated a state methane rule-making. We’ll keep you posted when it’s time to comment in favor of the strongest rules possible.

US moves back, NM forward on methane