August 7, 2017

Deadline looms for NM comments on oil and gas methane rule rollbacks

Laura Paskus

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico residents have until Wednesday to submit comments on stricter standards for methane leaks from new and modified oil and gas operations.

The tougher rules were approved under the Obama administration, but they’re among those the Trump administration has promised to roll back. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has argued that the oil and gas industry didn’t have enough input on the new standards aimed at preventing air pollution.

New Mexico rancher Don Schreiber said he opposes any rollback. He attended dozens of public meetings and said hundreds of thousands of comments were already submitted supporting the changes.

“Ranchers across the American West are all affected when dislocated, removed, ex-corporate people like Administrator Pruitt start taking protections away that we fought for, and really count on,” Schreiber said.

The EPA first tried to impose a 90-day temporary moratorium on the new standards, but a court overruled it. So, the agency is moving ahead with its push for a two-year moratorium.

The public comment period on the new standards ends this Wednesday, August 9.

The Trump administration also continues to go after methane waste at well sites on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Schreiber said pollution from the 25,000 active wells in the San Juan Basin will continue to have negative health consequences if the methane waste rule is abandoned, because air pollution has no boundaries.

“There’s only a few people, families, across the American West that shoulder the burden of natural gas when it’s produced, and what its side effects are,” he said. “This is a fight about air – there is no BLM air, there is no EPA air. It’s just air.”

Schreiber said he and others have watched their ranches disappear, as he puts it, “one well at a time.” He sees the effort to roll back tougher regulations as proof that in states like New Mexico, energy production is a higher priority than clean air and public health.