New Mexico’s Democratic leaders in Congress have urged the federal administration to pass restrictions on methane emissions like those recently enacted by the state of New Mexico.
Earlier this year, Congress voted to overturn a decision under the administration of former President Donald Trump that limited the power of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate methane from fossil fuel operations.
The measure was enacted by President Joe Biden and sponsored by US Senator Martin Heinrich, who argued that stricter regulations were needed to mitigate pollution from the industry and its impact on climate change.
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And on Tuesday, Heinrich was joined by US Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and US Democratic representatives from New Mexico. Teresa Leger Fernandez and Melanie Stansbury write a letter to the EPA asking the federal government to use its restored authority to continue to tighten restrictions on methane releases from the oil and gas sector.
They touted the new methane rules promulgated by the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources (EMRND), arguing that federal regulations should be developed so as not to undermine policy at the New Mexico level. the state.
Members of Congress highlighted clauses in New Mexico’s new rules that require frequent leak detection and repairs, including monthly inspections and select sites, while ensuring the rules apply to all wells, regardless of how well they are. whatever their size.
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New Mexico’s rules also prohibit routine flaring or the combustion of excess natural gas, and state-mandated operators capture 98% of the gas produced by 2026.
“New Mexico is a major oil and gas producing state, but it has worked to develop strong new state rules,” the delegation wrote. “We urge you to come up with tough new methane rules for oil and gas operations that build on the leadership of states like New Mexico, and we look forward to working with you to promote healthier communities and a better environment. better climate. “
They argued that stricter rules were needed as climate change and its impacts worsened in the United States, and that the move to reverse Trump’s withdrawal from EPA authority was a directive to that the federal agency promulgate additional regulations.
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“After four years of hindsight, we are encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency’s early start in the process of improving these rules under its authority and Clean Air Act obligation,” the letter reads.
“The climate crisis demands that we act as quickly and efficiently as possible, and Congress has clearly directed the EPA to create new, stronger methane protections.”
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham touted the EMRND rules when they were first proposed last year as a “national” policy that would tackle the impacts of pollution from one of the state’s biggest economic engines.
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The regulations followed an executive order issued in 2019 by Lujan Grisham calling on state agencies to develop an emissions reduction policy, and separate regulations were underway by the New Mexico Department of the Environment to limit ozone precursor emissions from oil and gas installations.
When Biden took office, Lujan Grisham said the state hoped to work with the federal administration to design tighter pollution controls for the fossil fuel sectors, after Biden imposed a temporary hiatus on new oil leases. and federal lands gas and that the Home Office has committed to a comprehensive review of its oil and gas program.
“It is essential that climate change is a priority,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement “In the interest of developing a new, more sustainable federal and state climate policy that is so urgent to protect our planet, a review of all changes Climate Related policies, including energy policies, will ensure we do it right – across the country and here in New Mexico. ”
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But despite some support from Democrats in Washington, DC, New Mexico’s only Republican in Congress, Yvette Herrell, said additional regulations could hamper the growth of one of America’s most powerful industries.
She said policymakers should help oil and gas producers develop their own methods of limiting pollution without heavy government actions.
“The United States is the world leader in reducing emissions, and American energy is cleaner and cheaper than anywhere else,” Herrell said. “Democrats are trying to wipe out New Mexico’s most important industry. “
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Herrell said the former president’s policy of overturning environmental regulations and opening more public land for drilling has created a powerful boon to the U.S. economy that should be taken into account if new rules are passed.
“President Trump’s energy policy has created thousands of jobs, billions in revenue, and allowed New Mexico to lead the way in its energy domination agenda,” she said. “We should encourage innovation and enable our producers to supply the rest of the world with energy produced by NM. “
Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of political, economic and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, said the industry should have a say in any new policy at the state or federal level to ensure that oil and gas can continue to be produced efficiently while meeting environmental concerns.
“We have specific policies that we believe the government should adopt, including carbon reduction or zero carbon technologies,” he said in a recent press appeal.
“It’s really not one approach or the other. Finding solutions to these challenges lies at the federal, state and local level and in the private market.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.