As we close in on what’s being (rightly) billed as “the most important election of our lifetime” there are some pretty serious issues to consider: COVID, *Trump* in general, the election process both before and after election day; it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But there are still some tangible things that must remain forefront in our minds if we care at all about the future of the planet we want to live on.
Amidst everything else, the Trump administration is trying to rollback national air quality standards, specifically around methane, and large oil and gas lobby groups are backing that plan. We’ve seen over and over again that trade groups like the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) side with their national counterparts at American Petroleum Institute (API) even when some of their local members, the actual companies who work the oil fields and fill out the ranks of NMOGA, are saying they agree with tighter regulations for both the optics and economic impacts capturing methane means for companies.
So why is the Trump Administration doing the bidding of the absolute worst in the oil and gas industry? In August, NPR did a story called “Trump’s Methane Rollback that Big Oil Doesn’t Want” and it rightly points to the capitalist perspective that unregulated methane, the key component of marketable “natural gas,” would drive prices lower than the already depressed NatGas prices that have never recovered from the last decade of expanded Permian oil boom production.
“Deregulation threatens that reputation not just in US markets but around the globe, as these corporations operate within foreign governments that may be trending toward more stringent climate policies than the US and who are not eager to import “dirty” US energy.” Sierra Club
Earlier this month Sierra Club released an article highlighting “Why is the EPA REALLY repealing Methane Emissions Regulations?” and do a wonderful job summarizing the issue. This section spells out why the actual companies are still in favor of regulations, despite the fact that the trade organizations they belong to are helping tow the line with the Trump Administration
“Massive energy corporations like Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil have the internal resources, be it funds or expertise, to comply with methane regulations. More importantly, they have poured endless money into promoting natural gas as a “cleaner” energy than fuels such as coal. Deregulation threatens that reputation not just in US markets but around the globe, as these corporations operate within foreign governments that may be trending toward more stringent climate policies than the US and who are not eager to import “dirty” US energy. As a result, many individual corporations have committed to limit methane emissions on their own, regardless of federal directives.”
What does that all mean for New Mexicans? As you know, the methane issue has been pretty front and center here for years, most especially as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned around it SPECIFICALLY and early in her term issued directives for the state to begin the process of instituting a state-level methane rule to complement and enhance the (then-in-place) Obama administration’s methane rules.
So basically it’s more important than ever to ensure the proposed rules being worked on RIGHT NOW by state officials are as rigorous and thorough as possible. That will mean that the New Mexico Environment Department must close loopholes in their draft rules that would exempt 95% of the wells in the state from oversight. It is up to us. We know the Trump administration isn’t going to be looking after our health, air, and climate on this methane issue.
While the public comment period has passed for the first round of the state’s Methane Rulemaking, we need to be prepared for the next iteration of their rules AND think about how the oil and gas industry is trying to sway our local elections before anything is fully implemented.
We know that methane pollution doesn’t stop at state borders, so it’s important that we keep the pressure on nationally as well for polluters to be held accountable, but in New Mexico, we have more access to a sympathetic administration that’s already said they want to cut methane. Let’s be sure we keep the right people in power to see that promise through.