As a former State Land Commissioner, I understand how important maximizing natural resource revenue is to New Mexico’s schools. New Mexico’s state lands are managed by the commissioner as a public trust to support our public school system. That’s why I can’t understand why the current commissioner, Aubrey Dunn, is opposing efforts to reduce natural gas waste in New Mexico – efforts that will generate more money for our schools when they need it most. The facts simply do not support Dunn’s opposition to sensible waste reduction rules from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
By reducing emissions of short-lived climate forcers like methane, we can take significant steps towards meeting our global greenhouse gas reduction targets, clean up the air near oil and gas facilities, save industry money and continue to spur American innovation. Doing so will better protect our constituents from unhealthy air pollution associated with methane and toxic chemicals emitted from oil and gas infrastructure and equipment, and protect us from the consequences of climate change that our cities and counties face on a daily basis.
Methane pollution not only fuels climate change, it can create smog, trigger asthma attacks, and even contribute to cancer. As a Catholic, I view protection of the environment from methane pollution as a spiritual and moral imperative. Methane and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector is an urgent issue, and available technology can reduce this pollution, which is harming communities in Ohio and our planet.
The new federal standards on methane will bring important benefits to Ohioans. There will be health benefits for the residents who live nearest to oil and gas development in eastern Ohio, since methane is a major contributor to smog. There will be a reduction in lost resources from capturing methane, as the gas would otherwise be wasted. There will even be more good-paying jobs right here in Ohio from a growing industry in methane mitigation technology.
We have the responsibility to act on global warming while we can. We must come to terms with the fact that global warming — which an overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree is caused by greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane — is changing life as we know it. The impact already is being felt by farmers and, increasingly, the general public. Economic tumult is around the corner.
The agency revised upward total methane emissions in the U.S. for the year 2013 from 636.3 million metric tons to 721.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, driven in significant part by increased estimates of emissions from oil and gas operations. And the overall methane emissions number is still higher for 2014, the most recent year in the inventory, at 730.8 million metric tons.
Meanwhile, still more recent satellite research is suggesting that U.S. methane emissions are on a big upswing — even as the EPA is expected to soon report new totals for methane emissions from oil and gas, as part of its broader annual inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions submitted to the United Nations. And if it sticks with preliminary figures, it will revise 2013 emissions upward by more than 25 percent, according to an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund. (What happens with other years remains to be seen).
These rules are also fostering a vibrant and growing methane mitigation industry in Colorado. According to a report from Datu Research, Colorado ranks 3rd in the nation for clusters of the companies that make, sell, and support methane control technologies. The majority of these companies are small businesses. This industry also supports four Colorado manufacturing plants providing solid jobs across the state.
As the EPA begins the Byzantine task of developing new methane regulations, it should consider ways to incentivize the adoption of emerging technologies that lower compliance costs. Congress might help the cause, too, by offering tax credits or accelerated deprecation to companies that deploy promising early stage methane detection equipment. For its part, the industry needs to embrace this cause as an essential part of its mission. The legitimacy of natural gas as a pro-environment fuel depends on it.
A real plan would require the facility’s permanent shutdown so those who live nearby can return home safely. Furthermore, the air board should require the gas company to fund the construction of community solar gardens that would provide needed economic relief to low-income residents and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.