Methane and ozone pollution are a public health issue. New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem that is a critical public health issue both by polluting our air and worsening the climate crisis which promises serious health and catastrophic weather events if not put in check. Our health and our future depend on state agencies taking a comprehensive approach to reducing methane and air pollution across the state.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the near term. In fact, about 25 percent of the global warming we are experiencing today is attributable to methane pollution. Here in New Mexico, oil and gas operations release more than 1 million metric tons of methane every year. That has the same short-term impacts as 22 coal-fired power plants or 28 million automobiles.
In 2014, NASA discovered a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over the Four Corners region , the highest concentration of atmospheric methane in the United States. In addition to methane, the oil and gas industry releases hundreds of thousands of tons of smog-producing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in New Mexico that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen other respiratory diseases such as emphysema. New Mexico already has a higher rate of asthma than the national average.
Rural communities, tribal communities, children, unborn babies and the elderly are especially at risk. Eddy, Lea, San Juan, Rio Arriba and Chavez counties – the five New Mexico counties home to 97 percent of the state’s oil and gas wells – are all at risk of violating federal ozone standards of 70 parts per million. The release hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and toluene that are proven to cause cancer, putting those living closest to oil and gas operations at the greatest risk. More than 130,000 New Mexicans live within a half-mile of oil and gas development. When oil and gas companies waste natural gas by burning it, releasing it into the air or by not fixing leaky equipment, New Mexico taxpayers lose out on tax and royalty revenue.
New Mexico is proposing common sense rules to mitigate methane and ozone pollution ensuring that is critical industry is primed to grow with strong standards to protect public health. HANM endorses methane and ozone mitigation.