ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Drilling on public lands contributes nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and the latest federal report says Wyoming and New Mexico contribute the most.
Released on the same day as the National Climate Assessment, the U.S. Geological Survey report says methane emissions from extraction and burning of fossil fuels on federal lands in 2014 made up 28 percent of emissions in Wyoming and 23 percent in New Mexico.
Liliana Castillo, communications director OF Conservation Voters New Mexico, says newly-elected lawmakers should immediately implement a methane capture rule to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the pollution.
“That is the first and foremost important thing that can be done to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted from oil and gas production on public land,” she states.
In last month’s election, Democrats captured both houses of the New Mexico Legislature and the governor’s office.
Another report on the topic issued this week by the Global Carbon Project says the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising at a faster pace in 2018 than the previous year.
In 2014, federal lands in Wyoming with oil and gas drilling contributed 57 percent of climate change emissions across the state. That was significantly more than New Mexico’s 6 percent or the 19 percent from offshore drilling.
Releasing methane also contributes to health effects, including asthma attacks, hospital admissions and premature deaths.
Castillo says New Mexico needs to start a new conversation on the topic.
“We talk about the benefits of oil and gas, which are real and we’re not trying to say that they aren’t,” she states. “But it has to be a balanced conversation. It has to talk about the impacts as well – the pollution to air, land itself, water.”
In 2014, NASA scientists published their discovery of a methane hot spot over New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, the largest area measured in the U.S. and so big, it’s visible from space.