New Mexico’s Massive Methane Problem

In 2014, NASA discovered a giant methane hotspot the size of Delaware hovering over NM’s San Juan Basin. It is Methane hot spot sliderone of the highest concentrations of airborne methane in the nation – and it disproportionately impacts our rural, indigenous and Latino families in the Four Corners region by contributing to higher rates of asthma in communities already coping with a legacy of air and water pollution.

Methane is 86 times more potent over 20 years than carbon pollution that affects climate change, which means that addressing methane pollution is a critical part of solving our global climate crisis. The oil and gas industry is the one of the largest industrial sources of methane pollution. In 2013 alone, flaring, venting, and leaking equipment was responsible for 7.3 million tons of methane released into the air across the U.S., equivalent to the carbon emissions from over 160 coal plants.

That’s why last year, the Environmental Protec- tion Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed the first ever nation-wide rules to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. Since then, Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNMEF) has been working with a coalition of organizations to build support for these important safeguards.

In February, BLM held a public meeting to hear from the public on the rules. So many people attended BLM’s Farmington hearing on a new proposed rule to curb methane emissions that the meeting room had to be moved – twice – to accommodate the crowd. Over 700 people were reported in attendance and the citizens who spoke were 2 to 1 in favor of the strong rules that will curb emissions of methane into New Mexico’s air. Along with our allies, CVNMEF helped to organize carpools for over 50 New Mexicans from across the state to attend these hearings.

In March, the EPA also publicly announced that they are strengthening their rule to cover all sources of methane pollution. But there’s more work to do, and many ways for you to get involved. The oil and gas industry has been pushing back on both rules, stating that any additional regulations will hamstring the industry. We’ve seen time and time again that this simply isn’t true, and we know that safeguards that protect our families and communities are common-sense.

By Molly Sanders, Program Director