March 6, 2017

Dems back methane capture rules

Laura Paskus

Some New Mexico Democrats gathered Monday to express support for regulations to limit methane emissions from natural gas flaring and leaks, even as congressional Republicans are planning to repeal the rule on a federal level.

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, called such a proposal a “triple win,” saying it would help businesses waste less methane that they could instead sell, cut  pollution and benefit  the state budget.

The Santa Fe Democrat said that other states, like Colorado and Wyoming were already seeing benefits from methane capture rules.

Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, noted that under questioning by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, “the American Petroleum Institute was unable to provide senators with a single shred of data that found smart methane regulations had any negative impacts on oil and gas jobs.”

State Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo, echoed the two Representatives and brought up health impacts of natural gas leaks.

“When I go visit my constituents at the various chapters of the Navajo communities, what they have to live with, not only the flaring, but the smell and the things you can’t see that impact their lives and that’s important for us to realize and understand the environment,” Shendo said.

Louis also mentioned the health impacts.

“When methane is released into the air, so are harmful pollutants that have significant public health consequences,” she said.

Shendo is sponsoring Senate Memorial 102, which would request that the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department report on how much natural gas is being vented and flared in New Mexico.

“This data will help us as a state, state regulators and lawmakers to understand” the scope of methane waste, Shendo explained.

Patrick von Bargen of the Center on Methane Solutions said that rules limiting natural gas flaring and waste would  create jobs in the methane mitigation industry—and said the jobs would not be able to be sent to other countries.

He also said that since Colorado enacted its rule in 2014, there have been no lawsuits against the rule nor pressure on the governor to revoke the rule.