Brown in Albuquerque Journal: Strong Methane Rules Benefit Everyone

American energy production is booming. This year, the United States became the world’s leading producer of both oil and natural gas. This is welcome news for both U.S. and New Mexico economies. My organization, the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, is a national coalition representing companies who have the technological know-how to cut emissions and reduce natural gas waste.

These companies employ men and women in New Mexico to achieve that goal in a cost-effective manner by keeping methane gas in the pipeline. However, the Trump administration’s continued rollback of common-sense rules pose a clear threat to this vital ecosystem of companies that work alongside the oil and gas industry to contain pollution.

The choice by the Trump administration to weaken methane rules like the one implemented by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to reduce methane emissions on federal and tribal lands is especially devastating for New Mexico. A new report from The Wilderness Society and Taxpayers for Common Sense titled “The State of Methane” finds that more methane is wasted from oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands in New Mexico — 570,000 tons annually — than any other state. This results in between $182 million and $244 million worth of natural gas being wasted each year, causing taxpayers to lose out on as much as $27 million in tax and royalty revenues annually. This is enough natural gas to meet the annual heating and cooking needs of every home in the state.

The Trump administration’s decision to roll back EPA’s methane rules, which have been in place for more than a year already, is especially frustrating because during that time, our members have worked with oil and gas operators in New Mexico to keep more product in the pipeline, creating high-paying jobs in the process.

What this report makes clear is that in the absence of leadership from Washington, it is critical that New Mexico’s new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and her team follow the lead of other states around the country including Colorado, Ohio and Wyoming to implement rules that reduce waste. In all three of those states, rules have been in place for years that already demonstrate that effective emission controls actually benefit the oil and gas industry that is thriving in those states.

Colorado, for example, requires leak detection and repair either monthly or quarterly depending on the size of the site, which has allowed companies to find and fix more than 70,000 leaks since 2015. That means a huge amount of natural gas conserved. States with less frequent leak checks will mean more wasted American energy and a less efficient oil and gas industry.

In a survey we did after these state rules went into effect, seven out of 10 oil and gas producers said the benefits of regularly checking equipment for leaks outweigh costs.

While some oil and gas producers strive to implement best practices for reducing methane emissions and waste, the vast majority of companies do not. That is why strong rules that benefit everyone are critical.

Gov.-elect Lujan Grisham must do what’s right for New Mexico’s economy and public health and implement strong methane rules that allow energy production to continue to thrive in the state in a responsible manner.

Isaac Brown previously served as an adviser to several senior members of Congress on energy issues. The Center for Methane Emissions Solutions is a national coalition of U.S. companies in the methane emission detection and repair industry.