New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem – it’s costing our schools millions in revenue, ruining our air and harming our climate for future generations. Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant responsible for 25 percent of the warming we experience today. It is also the primary component of natural gas and a valuable energy resource. Each year in New Mexico, oil and gas companies waste $275 million-worth of natural gas through venting, flaring and leaks which cost the state over $40 million in royalty and tax revenue that could fund public education. Oil and gas operations also release ozone-forming pollutants that worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema and trigger asthma attacks. Those living closest to oilfield development are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and toluene. If action isn’t taken increasing oil and gas production will lead to even higher pollution levels.
OIL & GAS AIR POLLUTION 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 one 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.
- Rural communities, tribal communities, children and the elderly are especially at risk and should the 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 half-mile of oil and gas development.
MORE METHANE POLLUTION MEANS ACCELERATED CLIMATE CHANGE AND AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR NEW MEXICO’S CHILDREN
Methane is potent greenhouse gas 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, 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 and drinking water supplies. The risk of water scarcity and drought is increasing, and in 2018 the entire state of New Mexico 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.
NEW MEXICO IS POISED TO 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 and proven solutions are a win for the environment and economy.
- 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 new 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 the 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 a 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.