September 12, 2018

Feds continue environmental rollbacks with new methane emissions rule

Laura Paskus

Flaring in the Four Corners

SANTA FE, N.M. – Conservation groups are slamming a move by the Trump administration to weaken rules on methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

The new rule, proposed on Tuesday, would allow companies to inspect their lines for leaks less often, and take longer to fix issues that arise.

Industry has long claimed the Obama-era rules are too expensive and burdensome. However, Matt Watson, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Energy Program, said methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas that merits a strong federal standard.

“Over 20 years, it’s more than 80 times more powerful than C02 [carbon dioxide] at trapping heat. And, in fact, methane is responsible for about a quarter of the warming that we’re experiencing today,” said Watson.

The EPA will soon publish the proposed rule change in the Federal Register, which will kick off a public comment period. The agency also plans to hold a public hearing in Denver, Colo., but has not yet set a date.

Opponents of the proposal warn it would undo a significant part of the United States’ efforts to fight climate change, and have vowed to fight any rollback in court.

Watson noted that New Mexico is one of the biggest producers of natural gas in the country.

“Currently, the state does not have rules for methane and has minimal rules in place for any kind of air-quality controls for the oil and gas industry,” he observed. “So, I know this is a political year, and I think one of the things voters should be asking of the candidates is where they stand on this issue.”

New Mexico has long had extensive natural gas operations in the San Juan Basin in the northwest part of the state, and is now experiencing a boom in the Permian Basin in the east.