New Mexico Dems call for tough new methane rule

Four New Mexico Democrats are encouraging the Obama administration to release a  strong rule regulating methane emissions at oil and gas drilling sites.

“We recognize that oil and gas producers have an economic incentive to minimize methane losses and the industry is improving its practices,” the Democrats — led by Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallIT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill Live coverage: Sanders rolls out single-payer bill Where Dems stand on Sanders's single-payer bill MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichLive coverage: Sanders rolls out single-payer bill Where Dems stand on Sanders's single-payer bill Trade agency should listen to Congress on solar case MORE — wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 

ADVERTISEMENT
“However, federal action is necessary to ensure that steps to limit methane releases are applied consistently across the industry.” 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in January that it would look to regulate methane emissions from leaks at newly-drilled or modified oil or natural gas wells. Drillers quickly criticized the proposal, saying they were working on reducing leaks on their own.

The new rules are the first step in an Obama administration push to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations by up to 45 percent. The OMB is reviewing the rule and is expected to publicly release a proposed version soon.  

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas, with 20 times more global warning potential than carbon dioxide. 

The New Mexico Democrats said the issue is especially important for their state, which has some of the most concentrated levels of methane in the nation. The state is among the leaders nationally in oil and gas production on federal lands. 

They said a strong methane standard is important for public health, but that it will have economic benefits as well. Natural gas venting and flaring — which lead to the methane emissions — reduces the amount of gas that can be sold and taxed.

“Rules to reduce the impact of methane releases on public health, while ensuring that Americans receive fair compensation for the production of federal minerals, are critical to reducing methane waste and pollution,” they wrote.