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 UdallSenate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 MORE and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests MORE — wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 

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“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.