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NM assails federal plan on methane

An oil field operation flares natural gas in the area of Loco Hills, between Artesia and Hobbs, in this Journal file photo. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration is opposing federal regulations that would remove certain methane emission limits. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

Dan Boyd | Albuquerque Journal | 10/25/2019

SANTA FE – The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is not mincing words in opposing a federal proposal to loosen methane emission limits for the oil and natural gas industry.

In a letter sent this week to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, state Environment Secretary James Kenney said the proposed regulations would run counter to state-level plans to reduce methane emissions and could pose health risks.

“If finalized, the proposed revisions will significantly degrade air quality and adversely impact public health throughout the U.S., including the state of New Mexico,” Kenney said in his letter.

He also said the proposed EPA regulations would preempt state authority, because federal standards are typically used to set state law.

The formal comments came a week after state Environmental Protection Division Director Sandra Ely made similar remarks while speaking at an EPA hearing in Dallas, saying that methane emissions make up 31% of New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Lujan Grisham has made combating climate change a priority in her administration, and shortly after taking office in January she ordered New Mexico to join a national coalition of states seeking to address the issue.

Among other steps, the governor has signed legislation that calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 45% over the next 12 years and requires two New Mexico executive branch agencies to work together to create new statewide regulations to control methane emissions.

“The Trump administration’s ongoing assault on the environment is unconscionable and must be fought at every opportunity,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement Friday.

Under the EPA’s proposed regulations issued in August, methane emission limits would be rescinded for new and modified oil and gas production sources, among other changes. The federal agency has estimated the proposal would save the oil and gas industry $17 million to $19 million annually.

Debate over the issue is playing out as oil production in New Mexico has skyrocketed to record levels, with most activity occurring in the Permian Basin, in the state’s southeastern corner.

New Mexico is now the nation’s third-highest oil producing state – behind only Texas and North Dakota – and the ongoing production boom has propelled state revenue collections to an all-time high.

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Categories: State News