Lets Fix the Methane Rule Now: Before It’s Too Late

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Lucas
 Herndon
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The time is now to fix the methane rule and protect New Mexicans from pollution

In 2018 one of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s central planks in her campaign for Governor was cutting methane from oil and gas. In 2019 she made it a major piece of one of her first executive orders as Governor. And she has committed the state to enact nationally leading rules to limit oil and gas pollution that damages our health and our climate.

Unfortunately to date, the state’s actions under Gov. Lujan Grisham have not lived up to these promises.

While we’re thankful for the work her administration has done in a number of areas, the methane rules they have proposed need work. The draft the New Mexico Environment Department presented to the public in July was completely undercut by huge proposed exemptions that would allow up to 95% of wells in New Mexico and 60 to 70% of the methane and health-harming volatile organic compounds to be exempted from the regulations. We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again:  Rules that don’t apply to 95% of the things they’re supposed to regulate can’t be nationally leading.

What’s more, the exemptions proposed by NMED will primarily benefit the biggest oil and gas producers in New Mexico, the sort of large out of state companies that ought to be able to afford to do the right thing on methane. This includes Hilcorp (the largest natural gas producer in NM) which stands to benefit most. It’s a head-scratcher as to why these exemptions are there, especially given Hilcorp seems to have some spare cash on hand (given that their chairman was one of President Trump’s largest donors in the oil and gas industry).

Meanwhile, New Mexico is suffering from the ongoing effects of Covid-19, a RESPIRATORY VIRUS! If for no other reason than the long-term effects that we know oil and gas emissions have on our communities, like increased instances of asthma (a major underlying cause of deaths related to Covid-19), securing a comprehensive methane rule to significantly curb those effects should be a major priority.

In addition to improving the air quality for our most vulnerable communities,  a comprehensive methane rule also has other benefits for the state.t. SInce natural gas (one of New Mexico’s biggest exports) is primarily methane, methane capture is also good for the state’s bottom line. Many of the largest producers like ExxonMobil are already working on retrofitting their infrastructure with methane capture for that exact reason. They support strong methane rules at the federal level and should do so in  New Mexico as well. So who exactly is the Environment Department listening to in proposing the loopholes, to begin with?

Last month, the state Treasurer and a host of investors with over $100 billion under management and considerable fiscal interest in New Mexico urged the administration to fix the proposed rules and remove the loopholes. When the money guys AND the oil companies AND the environmentalists all agree on something, it’s frankly baffling that the Lujan Grisham Administration hasn’t jumped on this and agreed as well.

We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again:  Rules that don’t apply to 95% of the things they’re supposed to regulate can’t be nationally leading.

We all know the rumor that Gov. Lujan Grisham is being considered for a spot in DC with the Biden administration, probably because of her dogged work to help fight Covid in New Mexico. We couldn’t be happier or more proud to see that consideration.

We also know that there is a lot of work that needs to be done right here in New Mexico including fixing this methane rule and closing loopholes that will leave far too many New Mexicans exposed to pollution. We would love to celebrate the passage of the nation-leading methane rules that will hopefully serve as a model for the rest of the country with Governor Lujan Grisham before she’s gone. We know it’s a major part of the legacy she wants to leave for her time in office, and a major promise to the people of New Mexico she can and should be able to check off her to-do list.

 

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