New Mexico Still in Need of a Strong Methane Rule

Methane New Mexico Flare

On January 29, 2019, Governor Lujan Grisham passed Executive Order 2019-003 with the goal of addressing climate change and energy waste prevention-  a breakthrough document for New Mexico. The “Background and Purpose” of the Executive Order was:

“To further New Mexico’s responsibility and opportunity to build a clean energy future for our people, limit adverse climate change impacts that harm our natural and cultural heritage, prevent the waste of New Mexico energy resources and reduce pollution that threatens human health…

As part of this initiative, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) were tasked with producing a methane rule that would effectively reduce methane emissions and waste in the state’s oil and gas industry by establishing a concrete and enforceable regulatory framework. Targeting methane specifically is a powerful way to reduce emissions: not only is methane a harmful greenhouse gas more than 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide, but it is also one of the most common waste products of drilling and currently lacks meaningful oversight regarding its disposal.

Venting and flaring are common practices by oil and gas operations in which excess gas byproducts of drilling are simply released into the atmosphere. If vented, there is no combustion involved, and if flared there is a flame visible at the point of release. Both of these are climate-warming releases which are wasteful and should be eliminated. There is no reason industry should not be held accountable and forced to capture this methane, which could in theory be resold by producers for profit, as well as provide the state with an additional source of tax income. At a time when San Juan County has already reached the federal threshold for ozone, it is vital that our state produce a methane rule that will lead to real changes in the quality of our air and set the stage for accompanying health benefits.

San Juan Citizens Alliance has been engaged in the rule-making process since day one. We know a robust methane rule is vital to a meaningful path forward for the state. We held a seat on the Methane Advisory Panel (MAP) that was created to inform the state departments as they drafted the rule and have been in communication with the administration throughout the process. More importantly, we have worked to get the word out and encourage turnout for the public stakeholder meetings the NMED and EMNRD have hosted in the Four Corners region to receive input from the communities most affected by industry’s practices. We believe public participation is integral to a working system.

The next step will be to review and comment on the final draft of the methane rule, which is likely to come out towards the end of the year, before it is officially adopted. We look forward to continuing to advocate for the health of our environment and communities as the methane rulemaking process moves forward.

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