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The oil and gas industry has a dirty, and not so little, secret. There’s a movement to convince the public that natural gas is “clean” but methane leaks from these drilling sites are a huge and growing contributor to climate change in New Mexico. 

Here’s a video of a wellhead “venting” methane, as well as benzene and frankly other unknown material, on land utilized by a rancher in Rio Arriba County.  It’s telling how much gas is being released by the sound, louder than the running diesel engine and wind combined. 

Courtesy of Don Schreiber

And that’s not all, the oil and gas industry is also burning off literally tons of methane every day, wasting YOUR money, that should be going toward YOUR schools.  One metric the amount of wasted natural gas from New Mexico is MORE THAN the total amount of natural gas needed to heat every single home in the state EVERY YEAR. This was recently reconfirmed in an industry article from  S&P. 

New Mexico’s top 15 oil and gas producers accounted for 78% of the 100.3 MMcf/d of natural gas the state’s operators flared in 2018, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of data collected by the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division. That year, the industry vented or flared enough gas to exceed the 94.4 MMcf/d consumed by the state’s 592,775 residential customers.

In that article,  S&P created a chart showing the worst polluters (let’s not mince words here, that’s what they are). This data comes directly from the Oil Conservation Division

 Flared (January – June)

Let’s look at a few of these. XTO (which is a part of the energy giant ExxonMobil) has been making a big deal recently about cutting methane, but it’s flaring MORE THAN TRIPLED last year. Oxy’s flaring problem spiked by MORE THAN TWO AND A HALF TIMES. Our old friends WPX (remember their atrocious spill record?) MORE THAN DOUBLED. And Cimarex was not far behind, increasing wasteful flaring by ALMOST 60 PERCENT.

So what does all this mean? Oil companies are flaring or simply burning off literal tons of hydrocarbons every year because it’s cheaper for them to do that than to invest in the technology to harvest and use that gas. But that gas has value if it were captured and sold, and burning this gas off through flaring means a loss of that value to the state of New Mexico, to our schools (which receive most of this revenue) and to our kids. 

Not to mention the health risks at local levels where these chemicals are released into the air, nor the long term damage to the climate from continuing to increase the percentage of methane and other chemicals into the atmosphere. 

It’s well past time for the state to step up and end this wasteful practice once and for all. And they have the perfect opportunity as they develop their methane rules this year.