BLM should prohibit venting and flaring - Albuquerque Journal

BLM should prohibit venting and flaring

My company, Stone Age Climbing Gym, has been a part of the outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico for almost 25 years. With the growth in remote work and skyrocketing demand for outdoor access, healthy public lands are bringing both visitors and business investment to rural communities across the country.

As a business that depends on natural resources, we understand the importance of balance and good stewardship of our public lands. Unfortunately, methane waste and pollution from oil and gas operations on public lands not only wastes a valuable public resource but also harms our airsheds in the West and damages the outdoor brands of local communities. For this reason, we support a strong BLM Methane Rule that limits methane waste, protects air quality and supports outdoor recreation on shared public lands by eliminating waste from routine venting and flaring.

New Mexico under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has stepped up and banned routine venting and flaring and finalized a nationally leading set of oil and gas air pollution rules. The Biden administration would be wise to build from these leading approaches as it works toward federal methane requirements.

Many rural communities near public lands have a great opportunity to pivot their economies beyond resource extraction – if their skies are clear and their air is clean, they can use their public lands to attract both visitors and business investment. We need strong federal methane rules to reduce methane waste and pollution, which will have the added benefit of protecting our air and climate to give these communities a future and ensure all Americans will continue to enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, skiing and rafting on our federal public lands. We certainly can’t have regional air pollution dissuade people from climbing in popular New Mexico spots like Diablo Canyon, El Rito, Enchanted Tower and White Rock Canyon.

Venting is the practice of directly releasing methane into the atmosphere, which is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over a 20-year time frame. In fact, methane is responsible for more than a quarter of the planet’s warming that we experience today. Flaring is an all-too-common practice of combusting methane into carbon dioxide before releasing it into the atmosphere, also harming the climate while not producing any energy benefit. Adding insult to injury, methane is also the primary component of natural gas, so when it is vented and flared, oil and gas companies are literally wasting a publicly owned resource into the air.

Poor air quality from the air and climate pollution released alongside methane is not only harmful to the health of our communities, it also harms local economies that rely on access to the outdoors. The quality of outdoor experiences are already suffering with longer and hotter summers and unpredictable snowpacks in the winter.

The BLM is expected to issue a draft rule to address methane waste this summer. We think the BLM’s proposal should follow the examples of leading states like New Mexico, Colorado and Alaska and eliminate waste from the routine practice of venting and flaring methane gas during oil and gas production activities.

Our public lands are key economic drivers for the nation’s outdoor recreation economy, and we need to do all we can to safeguard them.

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