Recently over a hundred people arrived in Durango, Colo., to discuss the huge methane “hot spot” hovering over the Four Corners region.
The methane plume – first discovered by NASA scientists in 2014 – is roughly the size of the state of Delaware and is the largest concentration of methane pollution in the nation.
Concerned community members from across the San Juan Basin, which encompasses New Mexico and Colorado, showed up at this public forum to get the latest intel on what’s causing the hot spot. It turns out scientists are still pointing the finger at air pollution from the region’s oil and gas facilities.
Nationally, oil and gas is widely known to be the largest industrial source of methane pollution – pumping anywhere from eight to 10 million tons of methane into the atmosphere each year. According to presenter Christian Frankenberg, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech, nearly 10 percent of nationwide oil- and gas-related methane pollution could be from this regional hot spot alone.
Experts noted the hot spot isn’t just a problem for the climate, since methane is responsible for about 25 percent of man-made global warming. It also has implications for local air quality.
Oil and gas pollution don’t solely contain methane; they also contain other harmful pollutants that can cause cancer and increase smog. In fact, during the forum, state officials were quick to point out that ozone levels in the region have risen in the past year. Though the Four Corners region is mostly rural, smog levels increased so much in recent years that the region’s air quality is now dangerously close to exceeding the national health standards.
This may seem bleak, but history has shown us there is a solution: reducing oil and gas industry emissions.