When it comes to methane, New Mexico is both first and last.
We have the highest concentration of atmospheric methane in the nation — a “hotspot” the size of Delaware over the San Juan Basin, as shown by NASA imagery. And we have the least amount of regulation controlling methane emissions, according to a new study from The Wilderness Society and Taxpayers for Common Sense.
So now that President Donald Trump’s administration has rolled back the Obama-era rule requiring energy companies to capture methane, it is essential that if New Mexico is going to reduce the former, it addresses the latter. Yet it must do so in a manner that balances the goals of cleaner air and a smaller carbon footprint with keeping the state’s oil and gas industry, third largest in the nation, delivering hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers to fund schools, hospitals, law enforcement and infrastructure.
Right now New Mexico has exactly zero requirements that meet or exceed any in the rolled-back Bureau of Land Management rule, the report says, which means significant sources of methane waste are unregulated. And that means not only are oil and gas going up in smoke, but so are millions of dollars in tax revenues – an estimated $27 million annually, the report says.
And while the industry disputes that number and touts self-regulation and innovation that have reportedly dropped methane leakage 46 percent in New Mexico’s side of the San Juan Basin and 6 percent in the Permian Basin from 2011-2016, it is essential the state establish a fair and achievable framework for cleaning up our methane act. After all, this same industry is responsible for what state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, a Republican-turned-Libertarian from Torrance County, has criticized for not cleaning up areas around hundreds of non-operating wells.