In New Mexico's Permian, federal plans mean more methane waste unless state steps up

As the landlord for a vast area of public land in Southeast New Mexico, one of the federal Bureau of Land Management’s primary responsibilities is to ensure the resources in that area are wisely managed to benefit the people of New Mexico. Why then is that agency moving forward on a plan that would waste millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas resources every year?

That is one of the primary questions posed today as a broad coalition of conservation and environmental groups filed comments with the BLM on their draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the area surrounding Carlsbad. Once finalized, this RMP will help guide BLM’s management decisions for 6.2 million acres over the next two decades.

Unfortunately, this RMP contains no methane waste provisions to reduce things like leaks from oil and gas operations.

That’s a problem. Since it is the primary component of natural gas, methane is both a potent greenhouse gas and a valuable energy source. Oil and gas companies operating on New Mexico’s public and tribal lands waste more than $100 million worth of natural gas every year – the worst record for natural gas waste in the nation.

Without addressing methane, this problem will only get worse. The BLM’s own analysis projects oil and gas development in the area will emit 46,191 metric tons of methane per year, leading to the waste of $16.5 million of gas annually. And this is likely an underestimate. The latest science shows that emissions are 60 percent higher than official estimates.

This is precisely why state regulators need to step in.

The Trump Administration is dismantling commonsense, cost-effective policies from the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency that reduce methane leaks from oil and gas facilities.

To speak out in opposition to Trump’s latest methane attacks, click here.

The management of methane in this area is hugely important both to the people of New Mexico and to the country as a whole. This acreage lies in the Permian Basin, the most active oil and gas drilling basin in the country. And since revenue from oil and gas development on public lands is split 50/50 between the state and federal treasuries, this waste problem will leave a big hole for state and federal taxpayers alike – not to mention a big and growing strain on local air pollution and our climate.

By ignoring this serious methane waste problem in the Resource Management Plan, the BLM is abdicating its responsibility to the people of New Mexico. The state, therefore, must step up to the plate as neighboring states like Colorado have done.  Without national protections, comprehensive state regulations are the only mechanism that can stop the rampant waste of natural gas.

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