Albuquerque Journal Op-ed: Health hazards of methane necessitate rule

I would like to issue our elected officials a challenge — let’s stop treating the health of Americans and the quality of our natural environment as partisan challenges and instead embrace them as moral obligations.

New Mexico is a state with a wide variety of natural resources, but we need to acknowledge that we are facing a serious problem with natural gas waste. Methane is a colorless, odorless and invisible component of natural gas, which is released into the air through oil and gas industry practices such as venting and burning off through flaring or simply through loss caused by leaky equipment. Methane isn’t harmless – it can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks, worsen respiratory conditions and cause cancer.

More troubling is that significant levels of these emissions are being generated in operations conducted on our public and tribal lands every day. In 2014, NASA announced it had found a methane “hot-spot” the size of Delaware hovering over the Four Corners region – where the boundaries of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado all meet. NASA also determined that methane waste from oil and gas operations are major contributors to the methane plume, that only 10 percent of the methane sources contribute half of all emissions and that leaking storage tanks and pipelines are major culprits of emissions.

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