Home New mexico state Lawyers: EPA Proposed Methane Rule To Complement New Mexico’s Efforts To Reduce...

Lawyers: EPA Proposed Methane Rule To Complement New Mexico’s Efforts To Reduce Pollution | Local News

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New Mexico is moving mainly in line with the methane rule proposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which aims to significantly reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the decades to come.

The EPA said that when drafting the rule, it took inspiration from the work of oil-producing states pushing to reduce methane emissions.

New Mexico and Colorado are considered the most important in trying to reduce air pollution from oil fields. At a recent state climate summit, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham called for the enactment of her 2019 executive order to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero. by 2050.

The EPA’s proposed rule would cover existing oil wells across the country, going beyond the recently restored Obama-era methane rule that only regulates wells installed after 2015 – an action which it claims environmentalists, would be an important step.

The rule is part of the Biden administration’s climate plan to tackle a wide range of sources of methane pollution, including fossil fuels, agriculture and landfills.

The plan was rolled out last week after President Joe Biden arrived at the world climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where more than 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

The public will have 60 days to comment on EPA’s proposal after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency will also organize public hearings and workshops.

State officials say a stricter federal rule is imperative to reduce collective emissions of a gas that has 80 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. It is estimated that methane causes up to a third of global warming.

“A strong and enforceable national rule to combat methane emissions from oil and gas operations in all states is essential,” New Mexico Assistant Secretary of the Environment Stephanie Stringer wrote in an email. . “A national framework will ensure a comprehensive approach to mitigate climate change and air pollution. “

The EPA’s proposal would complement New Mexico’s efforts, like its proposed ozone precursor rule, Stringer added.

The precursor rule, which is expected to come into effect next year, targets a different kind of pollution from oil fields.

This would significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds that form ground-level ozone, a poisonous gas that can cause breathing problems and damage the heart and lungs with prolonged exposure.

By reducing these pollutants, the proposed measures would also reduce the methane bound to these substances by about 851 million pounds per year in New Mexico.

The EPA estimates its rule would remove 41 million tonnes of methane between 2023 and 2035.

In an email, the spokesperson for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association wrote that the group will review the proposal and make suggestions to the EPA, just as it has done with state regulators. when they developed emission rules.

“Our members support taking meaningful action to address the risks of climate change,” wrote spokesperson Robert McEntyre. “The oil and natural gas industry has long led the way in innovation and technology to ensure that today’s and tomorrow’s production is cleaner, safer and more environmentally friendly than never before. “

Environmentalists have applauded the proposed rule, although they also believe parts of it should be beefed up.

A stricter federal rule is important for neighboring states like Texas, whose lax methane monitoring can cause the pollutant to drift into New Mexico, said John Goldstein, director of state policy for Environmental Defense. Fund.

“Air pollution doesn’t stop at the state border,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein said it was critical for the EPA to develop a rule that would cover the hundreds of thousands of wells across the United States.

But the current version of the project offers no significant restrictions on routine natural gas flaring, while the state has banned flaring except in emergencies, Goldstein said.

Operators in New Mexico are also required to capture 98% of their methane by 2026.

Besides being good for the climate and public health, Goldstein said, the capture of natural gas makes economic sense because it prevents operators from losing their merchandise, which is necessary as households face prices of. higher heating due to tighter gas supply.

An EPA analysis estimates that capturing the methane will save the industry up to $ 4.5 billion a year in lost revenue.

Another shortcoming is that the draft rule only requires a one-time inspection of wells that emit 3 tonnes or less of pollutants per year, which could lead to increased emissions from some unchecked wells, said Camilla Feibelman, director. Sierra Club Executive. Rio Grande Chapter.

This provision is similar to what the state agreed to for its proposed ozone precursor rule before moving to annual inspections on low-emission sinks, Feibelman said.

“This concerns us,” she said.

However, the EPA will conduct additional rule development to address issues that are not covered by this rule or that raise concerns, such as routine flaring or too few marginal well inspections, Feibelman said.

She agreed that the more comprehensive surveillance proposed in all states will create a base of protections.

“It has been a very long road,” she said. “The mere fact that there are proposed methane rules outside the EPA that cover existing sources is a very big deal.”

This rule, she said, would go further than state regulations in encouraging operators to upgrade their methane monitoring and capture technologies.

Industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute have argued that stricter emission rules are unnecessary because companies are improving their technology to reduce pollution.

In a press release, the EPA described how the rule would give operators the ability to use advanced technology to find leaks faster and more cheaply.

There would also be a zero-emission standard for new and existing pneumatic control devices, some of which account for 30% of the industry’s methane emissions, the EPA said.

With most current pneumatic controllers, pressurized natural gas opens and closes the valves, releasing methane into the atmosphere.

The agency’s rule would ban polluting devices much faster than the state’s plan to phase them out by 2030.

The EPA is right to offer broad, flexible guidelines for the technology so that operators don’t have to buy expensive equipment that could be obsolete in a few years, said Tom Singer, senior policy adviser for Western Environmental. Law Center.

State and federal agencies are creating rules that will work together to reduce methane emissions, Singer said, but he doubts that this is enough to quell the industry’s climate impacts.

To truly tackle climate change, the world needs to move away from fossil fuels, he said.

“The rules themselves are unlikely to drive emissions… below levels where oil and gas production is climate-friendly,” Singer said.

Still, Feibelman thinks the federal government’s new plan and international agreement to cut methane emissions over the next decade are encouraging steps.

“It’s been a big week for methane,” she said.


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