End NM’s Methane Waste and Pollution

New Mexico’s beautiful landscape – and the recreational opportunities it offers – is one of the main reasons people give for loving our state. Painters and photographers have long been drawn to New Mexico by the quality of light filtered through our vast, pristine skies. Everyone who loves New Mexico and calls it home has a stake in keeping our state clean and our environment healthy.

That’s why we all need to insist that our valuable natural resources are not wasted and our air is not polluted.

We Need to Clear the Air

But New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem. It’s not only ruining our air and harming our climate, it’s also costing us millions of dollars that would otherwise go toward purchasing text books, technology, and other resources for our classrooms.

Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant that’s responsible for 25 percent of the global warming we experience today. It’s a byproduct that’s released when oil is pumped out of the ground. Some states require companies to capture (and pay for) the methane they release, but not New Mexico. We allow companies to either vent it – simply allowing it to escape into the air – or burn it off, called flaring. Methane is also leaked into the air when equipment is not properly maintained.

On the flip side, methane is a valuable energy resource. It’s the primary component of natural gas, which many New Mexicans use to heat their homes, cook their meals, and dry their clothes. Each year in New Mexico, oil and gas companies waste $275 million worth of natural gas through venting, flaring, and leaking. Because we allow companies to do this, we miss out on the more than $40 million we would collect in royalties and tax revenue – most of which would fund public education.

Not only would capturing this natural resource bring in revenue and improve our air quality, it would also create jobs and support the small businesses developing methane mitigation technology.

How You Can Take Action

New Mexico’s land, air and water are a cherished part of our heritage, and we have a moral obligation to protect them. We need to hold oil and gas companies accountable with commonsense methane and air pollution rules that protect air quality and our climate. A state methane rule is a win-win that reduces pollution, increases funding for education, and encourages job creation in New Mexico’s growing methane mitigation industry. Here are three simple things you can do:

  1. Sign Our Petition Urging Gov. Lujan Grisham to Act

We applaud Governor Lujan Grisham’s commitment to reducing methane waste and pollution, as outlined in her executive order. We call on her to issue draft regulations within her first year in office. Effective regulations should require oil and gas companies to cut methane emissions and repair leaks to stop energy waste, stem lost tax revenue, and protect our air and climate for future generations. Sign the petition here.

  1. Attend a Public Meeting

As state agencies begin the process of drafting methane mitigation rules, the public will have the opportunity to learn more about it at three stakeholder engagement meetings across the state. They are:

  • Monday, July 29, 1-5 pm, at San Juan Community College, Farmington
  • Tuesday, July 30, 1-5 pm, at University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque
  • Wednesday, Aug. 7, 8:30 am-12:30 pm, at Nuclear Waste Partnership Building, Carlsbad

More information on these events will be available on the New Mexico Environment (NMED) and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources (EMNRD) Department websites as details are finalized.

  1. Learn More about our Methane problem and solutions:

Methane Waste Costs New Mexico Taxpayers, Schools & Our Economy

When oil and gas companies waste natural gas by deliberately burning it, releasing it into the air or by not fixing leaky equipment, New Mexico taxpayers lose out on tax and royalty revenue that could fund New Mexico schools.

  • Venting, flaring and leaks waste $275 million worth of natural gas per year in New Mexico, depriving the state of more than $40 million in royalties and tax revenue that could fund public education.
  • That’s enough revenue to increase pre-K enrollment by 80 percent and offer more than 7,000 additional New Mexico kids access to quality early childhood education.
  • Cutting methane waste creates jobs. Enacting a commonsense methane rule will ensure responsible oil and gas development and foster new jobs in the emerging methane mitigation industry.
  • New Mexico is already home to 11 companies that specialize in methane mitigation and this industry is primed to provide even more highly skilled jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.

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Pollution from the Oil & Gas Industries Threatens Air Quality and Public Health

New Mexico is home to two energy-producing regions that are among the nation’s most-polluted.

  • Oil and gas operations in New Mexico emit at least 1 million metric tons of climate-warming methane a year and hundreds of thousands of tons of smog-producing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen other respiratory diseases such as emphysema.
  • Children, the elderly, and rural and tribal communities are especially at risk and shoulder the personal and public health costs of methane waste and pollution. A recent analysis made clear that tribal communities often suffer from disproportionately high pollution levels.
  • Eddy, Lea, San Juan, Rio Arriba, and Chavez Counties – the five New Mexico counties home to 97 percent of the state’s oil and gas wells – are all at risk of violating federal ozone standards of 70 parts per million.
  • Oil and gas operations also release hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and toluene that are proven to cause cancer, putting those living closest to oil and gas operations at the greatest risk. More than 130,000 New Mexicans live within a half-mile of oil and gas development.

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More Methane Pollution Means Accelerated Climate Change and an Uncertain Future for New Mexico’s Children

As a potent greenhouse gas, Methane is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the near term. In fact, about 25 percent of the global warming we are experiencing today is attributable to methane pollution.

    • Here in New Mexico, oil and gas operations release more than 1 million metric tons of methane every year. That has the same short-term impacts as 22 coal-fired power plants or 28 million automobiles.
    • NASA discovered a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over the Four Corners region in 2014. It’s the highest concentration of atmospheric methane in the United States.
    • Climate change will lead to longer, more intense wildfire seasons in New Mexico that threaten the health and property of New Mexico families. In summer 2018, the Buzzard Fire in the Gila National Forest led to elevated particulate pollution in Albuquerque, and health experts urged residents to stay indoors.

  • According to the EPA, snowpack has been decreasing in New Mexico and the Rocky Mountain West since the 1950s, which could threaten the Rio Grande, Pecos and San Juan rivers, as well as drinking water supplies. The risk of water scarcity and drought is increasing, and in 2018 the entire state was in a drought.
  • Climate change will lead to life-threatening heat waves in New Mexico. Extreme heat poses severe health risks, including death. This threat is especially acute for those without access to electricity, including 40 percent of residents in the Navajo Nation.

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New Mexico Could be a National Leader on Cutting Methane Waste and Pollution

In January 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she was going to make New Mexico a national leader in cutting methane waste and pollution by adopting rules “to eclipse states that are successfully doing this work.” Gov. Lujan Grisham’s goal stands on firm ground given that Republican- and Democratic-leaning states across the U.S. have acted to cut emissions:

  • In 2014, Colorado became the first state in the nation to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations with the support of the state’s largest independent oil and gas producers and environmentalists. Three years later, the state strengthened rules for its largest oilfield with the support of the two largest oil and gas trade groups. And in 2019, the Colorado legislature passed a directive to strengthen methane regulations statewide.
  • In December 2018, Wyoming adopted rules to cut oil and gas air pollution from new development across the state. This came after the Trump administration proposed cutting federal methane standards. Wyoming’s new source rules build upon progress made in 2014, when the state adopted regulations that successfully cut emissions from new and existing sources in the Upper Green River Basin.
  • In June 2018, the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer, Pennsylvania, adopted new permit requirements to reduce methane emissions from new unconventional natural gas operations. The state will officially embark on rulemaking this summer to cut emissions from existing unconventional natural gas operations.
  • In 2015 and again in 2018, Ohio adopted rules to cut emissions from new oil and gas facilities. And just last year, the state announced a stakeholder effort to cut emissions from existing operations.

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Is the oil and gas industry already doing enough to reduce its methane emissions?

No. While some companies have made commitments to reduce methane emissions, that only represents a fraction of the overall industry. All of New Mexico’s oil and gas producers should follow the same commonsense standards and use technologies that limit the amount of methane gas and pollution that is leaked, vented or flared from oil and gas facilities statewide. Moreover, the latest science has shown that methane emissions are five times higher than the oil and gas industry has reported to the EPA.

Why does New Mexico need a methane rule? Isn’t this a national issue?

The Trump administration is rolling back federal regulations on methane pollution and waste. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency are walking away from their oversight and enforcement of the oil and gas industry, leaving New Mexico unprotected from methane waste and pollution. Other states are stepping up with common sense rules to control methane. New Mexico needs to act to protect taxpayers and the health of local communities.

What is Gov. Lujan Grisham doing about methane?

Earlier this year Gov. Lujan Grisham issued Executive Order 2019-03, directing the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and the Environment Department to work together to develop rules that would cut natural gas waste and clean up air quality in rural communities. There is no time to lose. We’re calling on the governor to issue draft rules before the end of 2019.

Would a state methane rule threaten oil and gas jobs in New Mexico?

No. Oil and gas development plays a significant role in New Mexico’s economy by creating jobs and funding education. As the industry continues to grow, it has a responsibility to develop oil and gas resources wisely, minimizing impacts on our communities. Other states have successfully enacted rules to curb methane waste and pollution while still allowing for growth and new jobs in the oil and gas industry. Moreover, cutting methane actually creates jobs in the methane mitigation industry.

Who supports creating a methane rule in New Mexico?

There is broad agreement for New Mexico to act on methane. Almost 90 percent of voters say that it is important for all of New Mexico’s oil and gas companies to follow the same standards to limit methane waste and pollution. Public health advocates, children’s advocates, tribal communities, environmental organizations, business leaders, elected officials, and local communities across the state have all supported action to cut methane waste and pollution.
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