To keep the New Mexico air clean and to protect the outdoor recreational businesses that are central to the New Mexico economy, we need strict rules to reduce air and climate pollution. As we all emerge from the current economic downturn, it’s more important than ever to maintain New Mexico’s iconic outdoor brand and continue to create clean jobs in our outdoor leisure industry.
As you may already know, New Mexico has a problem with methane waste, as well as oil and gas pollution. Methane is a powerful climate change pollutant responsible for 25% of global warming today, and New Mexico is a major source of methane pollution in our country. As we work to promote our unique cultural heritage, along with climbing, hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, and rafting – along with many other great outdoor pursuits – New Mexico is increasingly becoming known as the country’s premier methane hotspot.
Here are the facts. You may have seen them before, but we believe it is worth repeating. In 2014, NASA discovered a methane cloud the size of Delaware over the Four Corners region, the highest methane concentration in the United States. A recent report by the Environmental Defense Fund found methane leaking from New Mexico facilities in the Permian Basin three times the national average. Our state releases 1 million tons of methane every year, with the same short-term impact on the climate as 22 coal-fired power plants or 28 million cars. We are already experiencing a longer, more intense forest fire season, lower snow cover and life-threatening heat waves.
Fortunately, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) is about to pass a waste reduction rule that would end the wasteful practice of routine venting and flaring in New Mexico. Manufacturers need to flare up rather than deflate unless required to do so for health and safety reasons. Oil and gas companies need to capture 98% of methane emissions by 2026. Government reporting and public disclosure requirements will also be strengthened to improve transparency and accountability for oil and gas operations. This rule would truly lead nationally and is in line with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s goals of taking strong measures to reduce waste and pollution.
Unfortunately, as New Mexicans and owners of outdoor businesses, we urgently need to urge the New Mexico Department of the Environment to follow suit and improve their air pollution rule designs. This is vital as nearly 70% of New Mexico’s oil and gas methane pollution is caused by NMED regulated leaks. The Agency must therefore adopt a rule that holds polluters accountable and reduces emissions along the entire oil and gas supply chain. NMED’s draft rules fail to protect public health and our climate by exempting the vast majority of wells across the state from regulation, oversight, and basic leak detection and repair requirements.
According to Axie Navas, director of the Outdoor Recreation Division in New Mexico, outdoor recreation is a “powerhouse” delivering a national gross domestic product of more than $ 2 billion. Our state employs up to 35,000 people in the outdoor industry. In other words, protecting our natural resources is just good business. If we don’t do something about the quality of our air, future generations of New Mexicans will not be able to climb our cliffs, hike in our deserts, ski in our mountains, or paddle down our rivers. Without places where we can relax, our companies will no longer exist.