by Matthew Reichbach, NM Political Report
October 25, 2016

The battle over restricting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is headed to Bernalillo County.

It’s in the form of a proposed resolution by Democratic County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, with the support of groups such as New Mexico Voices for Children and Hispanics Enjoy Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO).

The resolution is expected to be heard during Tuesday evening’s meeting.

While acknowledging that “energy development is critically important to the economy of both Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico,” the resolution calls for the Bernalillo County Commission to support stronger rules from the federal government on methane flaring and leakage and to charge royalties on “wasted, vented or flared methane gas” released into the atmosphere.

“It really seems to us to make no sense to allow these oil companies to basically waste a resource that should belong to the public, that the production of which should benefit the public,” NM Voices for Children Executive Director James Jimenez said in a short interview. “When they waste it like that, it’s gone forever.”

HECHO hailed the commission for considering the resolution.

“Taking the necessary steps to reduce methane pollution will generate jobs, increase the state’s revenue, and will be good for our public lands and the environment,” Rock Ulibarri, an advisory board member of HECHO, said in a statement Monday. “Most importantly, it will help tackle health issues exacerbated by air pollution, such as respiratory ailments and heart problems, which disproportionately affect the Latino community in the state.”

Bernalillo County isn’t an oil and gas producing area. When asked why the Bernalillo County commission was taking up the methane gas proposal, Jimenez mentioned the fiscal impacts.

“The county is really feeling the impacts of what’s happening at the state level,” Jimenez said. “And as the state general fund has declined for a variety of reasons, they’re feeling the pinch from the repeal of the hold harmless, that puts even more pressure on local governments to have to raise taxes.”

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