NASA Releases Report On Threatening New Mexico Methane Hotspot

Today NASA published a report that confirms the energy industry, primarily the natural gas extraction industry, is responsible for the Four Corners methane hotspot.

The Four Corners methane hotspot is yet another environmental climate and public health disaster served to our community by industry. But now that we’ve identified the sources we can begin to hold those responsible accountable for cleaning up after themselves. The BLM methane rule and EPA methane rule are more clearly essential than ever.

See full Press Release below.


For Immediate Release, August 15, 2016

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NASA Releases Report On Threatening New Mexico Methane Hotspot

Report Dives Deeper into Cause Behind the San Juan Basin Methane Hotspot

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, NASA released a study on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. The report, based on intensive aerial surveys and ground crews, is a follow-up on the 2014 satellite report that initially found the “hotspot” in the region, and sought to further identify and explain its causes. Read the full report online HERE.

The study identified 250 large methane plumes emitted from well pads, storage tanks, pipelines, gas processing plants, and venting from the San Juan coal mine. The new study found that roughly half of basin-wide methane emissions identified in a prior study come from more than 250 very large polluters that were detected by intensive NASA aerial surveys and ground crews. Unfortunately, the study did not identify or attribute the sources of the remaining 50%, rather pointing to the possibility that these emissions come from operations that pollute below the study’s threshold.

Despite attempts from industry to point to other operations as culprits, NASA’s researchers identified a single non-oil or gas source that contributed to the San Juan Basin “hotspot,” a coal mine in the region.

NASA’s report is the latest report to highlight the threat the Four Corners community faces from methane pollution.

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“This new NASA study found that roughly half the methane emissions identified in the first San Juan Basin hot spot study come from more than 250 large polluters. While this is a major step forward in understanding the causes of New Mexico’s hot spot, it only tells half of the story. The study did not determine the sources of the other half. Given the over 20 thousand (mainly older) wells, myriad storage tanks, thousands of miles of pipelines and several gas processing plants in the area, the finding that the oil and gas industry is mainly responsible for the hot spot isn’t surprising. Solving the problem will require the oil and gas industry to cut emissions from all sources, large and small. EPA and BLM’s common sense oil and gas methane pollution standards currently in the works will go a long way to achieving this goal. New Mexicans should voice their strong support now to get these standards finalized.”
– Thomas Singer, Senior Policy Advisor, Western Environmental Law Center

“NASA’s report only lends further proof to what we already know; methane pollution poses a clear threat to families and communities in the San Juan Basin region. The recently finalized new source standard is a great first step, but we must take action to safeguard our public health, our climate, and our environment from all sources of this pollutant.”
– Alex Renirie, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

“This report is another clear indicator that oil and gas facilities are harming public health and our climate by leaking and venting methane,” said Lauren Pagel, Policy Director for Earthworks, the only non-profit organization that utilizes trained thermographers to operate Forward Looking Infrared Cameras like those used by industry and regulators. “This report is documenting what we continue to see in the field — oil and gas operations release methane, unchecked, into the environment. It’s time for the EPA to step up and protect public health with existing source methane standards.”
– Lauren Pagel, Policy Director, Earthworks

“The findings of this report demonstrate that the EPA and BLM safeguards that aim to reduce methane pollution are critical to curb New Mexico’s methane hotspot. We call on BLM and the EPA to move quickly to address methane pollution from all oil and gas sources — the health of our communities depends on it.”
– Molly Sanders, Program Director, Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund

“Methane pollution and consequences to health and environment continue to grow. We have an opportunity with proposed methane rules to take moral and ethical responsibility to be good stewards of the earth we have been given. Each of our religious traditions call us to be responsible members of the community of life as we become aware of those responsibilities. We are now aware of the good we can do by addressing methane pollution and being responsible for current and future generations in our state.”
– Sr. Joan Brown,osf, Executive Director, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light

“This report underscores the incumbent need to reduce the enormous methane pollution and waste that oil and gas industries are spewing from our public lands, but Indigenous and Four Corners communities are already in harm’s way and can’t afford to wait. The best way to prevent climate pollution from poisoning our public lands and communities in Four Corners is for the Obama Administration to heed this call and stop auctioning off these lands in the first place. If we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, we simply must keep the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground.”
– Rebecca Sobel, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner, WildEarth Guardians

“Oil and gas companies are releasing millions of tons of methane pollution into our air, and today’s report is yet another confirmation that we must take steps in protecting our communities from the disastrous health impacts of those pollutants. Our children have been footing the bill for this pollution with their health and the findings of this report show us that the EPA and BLM proposals to reduce methane pollution are critical in curbing New Mexico’s methane problem. These rules don’t just protect our kids but create opportunities to put American innovation to work, which benefits both the industry and our communities. These rules are a win-win approach to this very serious problem,”
– Chelsey Evans, NM Field Organizer, Moms Clean Air Force

“This solid data, which we anticipate will be only strengthened by the release of the pending NOAA report, reveals the oil and gas industry as a main contributor to the methane hotspot. Now it’s incumbent upon our region to utilize known technological solutions to eliminate that pollution.”
– Emily Bowie, Campaign Organizer, San Juan Citizens Alliance

“The NASA methane study of the large concentration of methane over San Juan County, New Mexico released today is entirely consistent with other recent studies of methane producing basins around the West. It is also consistent with others findings that the huge increase in methane emissions in the United States in the past decade correlates with the coal bed methane and fracking industry expansion. The overall increase in fugitive methane release is enough to negate progress we as a nation have made in reducing our climate changing CO2 releases.”
– Jim Mackenzie, Co-Founder, 350 New Mexico

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