WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday, that they welcome the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft rules for curbing natural gas waste.
New Mexico is the nation’s leading producer of oil from onshore federal land, and second for natural gas production. Yet too much of the state’s natural gas goes to waste through venting, flaring and leaks – causing dangerous methane pollution over the San Juan Basin.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide within the first 20 years after it is emitted. A NASA study has identified a methane hot spot the size of Delaware over the San Juan Basin – the highest concentration in the nation.
In July, the New Mexico lawmakers called for prompt action on the federal standards to protect public health, fight climate change and ensure taxpayers receive fair compensation for mineral production on federal lands.
“New Mexico’s natural resources provide jobs and royalty payments and are an important part of our state’s economy. But over $100 million worth of those natural gas resources are being wasted each year due to outdated requirements, costing the state of New Mexico $43 million in lost royalties since 2009,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “The waste is a serious health issue and contributes to smog and climate change.”
“The new methane waste-reduction rules announced today are an important step toward better management of public resources,” the lawmakers’ statement continued. “They will help ensure producers reduce venting, flaring and leaks from oil and gas production sites. Every molecule of natural gas that is captured is a molecule that can be sold and put to good use and increase state and federal royalties — and that will help ensure New Mexicans have clean air generations into the future.”
Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments. The Department of the Interior plans to hold a series of public meetings on the proposed rule in February and March.
In praising the BLM’s proposed rules, the lawmakers also urged the administration to take further steps to rein in methane pollution.
In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which — like the BLM — is in the process of drafting new policies to address waste and pollution from oil and gas operations, the lawmakers asked EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to strengthen the EPA’s proposed rules.
Specifically, the lawmakers asked McCarthy to strengthen and finalize the EPA’s proposed standards to control methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas operations. They also recommended that the EPA next consider a rule governing methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations.
“We strongly support many features of the proposed standard,” the lawmakers wrote of the EPA’s draft rules. “The proposal would require for the first time the capture of methane and VOC emissions from hydraulically fractured oil wells, a major source of pollution. The proposed rule also contains common-sense standards for important sources of methane emissions from oil and gas facilities and equipment.”
“However, we believe there may be room for improvement as we understand that several critical sources of methane emissions were omitted from EPA’s proposal. We would strongly encourage EPA to review additional sources and rigorous leak detection and repair standards to ensure the rule successfully incorporates best practices. By finalizing a strong new and modified rule, EPA will be well prepared to pursue a successful existing source rule as well,” they concluded.
The letter is available here.