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Oil, gas industry ready to partner on methane rules

As our state and Gov. (Michelle) Lujan Grisham’s administration begin a process to assess how to manage methane emissions, New Mexico’s oil and natural gas industry is a willing partner.

Each day, thousands of New Mexicans go to work in the oil and natural gas industry. Together these men and women drive New Mexico’s economy, working tirelessly to ensure New Mexico safely produces the energy we need to power our daily lives. Their hard work has provided New Mexico with a billion-dollar budget surplus, and more funds to support our public schools and roadways.

While all who work in the oil and gas industry take pride in what we contribute to New Mexico’s economy and public schools, there is nothing we value more than safeguarding the people and places we care about the most. That means working continuously to protect the environment and reduce and control methane emissions. It’s a responsibility we take personally.

As the leader of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, a 90-year-old organization with nearly 1,000 members representing all facets of the oil and natural gas industry, I want to make our position on this issue clear: We have a responsibility to reduce our methane emissions; we are in fact reducing methane emissions through responsible operations; and we will continue investing in advanced technology and innovation to achieve even greater reductions in methane emissions.

As an example of these innovative technologies, infrared cameras that show gases not seen by the naked eye and internet-enabled devices monitor production equipment and facilities for leaks or other anomalies. These devices can notify operators in real time, which allows for potential issues to be addressed more quickly.

Underscoring our industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability, producers are collaborating and learning from each other, sharing best practices through an industrywide initiative called The Environmental Partnership. These efforts, among many others, have ushered in a cleaner era of energy production for all oil and natural gas producers in the United States and New Mexico, showing we can reduce emissions and increase production at the same time.

Environmental Protection Agency data continues to show declining emissions in both of New Mexico’s producing basins while oil and natural gas production climbs to record levels. Similarly, Energy Isn Depth found that methane emissions intensity, or methane emissions per unit of produced oil and natural gas, fell 57% in the New Mexico/Texas Permian Basin from 2011 to 2017 – even as production increased 125% over the same period.

Anti-oil and natural gas groups purport to offer estimates claiming a different story, but a recent study from scientists with the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports those estimates could be as much as 10 times higher than actual emissions.

As the Albuquerque Journal recently noted, the need for a clear set of data and facts is critical before we develop rules. This issue is simply too important for a policy approach to be based upon anything but an accurate and comprehensive set of data.

We stand ready to work in partnership. By working together – industry and government – we can create a path forward that ensures the viability of New Mexico’s most important industry while protecting the environment for our future generations.

Ryan Flynn previously served as New Mexico’s secretary of the Environment.

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