Los Cruces Sun News: Methane mitigation can aid economic recovery across New Mexico

The news that LaSen, Inc. — a company that inspects oil and gas pipelines from the air — will double its New Mexico workforce over five years creating almost 80 New Mexico jobs and investing $8.4 million into the state’s economy, offers a glimpse of a possible future for our state where economic development, environmental protection and public health goals align. Gov. Lujan Grisham’s effort to create nation-leading methane waste and pollution rules for the oil and gas industry can attract jobs and investment and lay the groundwork for a more resilient economy.

Finalizing clear and consistent air quality and methane rules this year that require all oil and gas operators to achieve real reductions in emissions, repair leaks and reduce venting and flaring will send a strong signal to the private sector to boost investment in methane mitigation. And strong rules will be a win-win for New Mexico by also helping deliver on public health and environmental priorities and capturing lost tax and royalty revenue for public services like education.

The methane mitigation industry is a robust and growing American industry that is already on the ground across the country designing, manufacturing and deploying the devices and services that make the oil and gas industry operate safer and cleaner. More than 100 companies have headquarters in the U.S., and there are more than 500 methane mitigation facilities located across the country, in 46 states. In New Mexico, the methane mitigation industry already boasts upward of 18 locations, including leak detection and repair services, equipment maintenance facilities, sales centers and company headquarters, a sector that is set for growth with the right policy drivers in place.

Scientific estimates have found that every year in New Mexico $275 million worth of natural gas in the form of methane is lost from leaks, venting and flaring at oil and gas sites. That’s enough natural gas to provide the heating and cooking needs to the entire state of New Mexico — two times over. And the latest science shows the problem is getting worse with the Permian now being revealed as having the worst methane waste and pollution problem in the nation.Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.

If captured, this energy resource would also mean an additional $43 million per year in tax and royalty revenue to the people of New Mexico, a significant sum in this time of budget cuts that could and should be invested in vital state needs like education.

The good news is that we have the technology and know-how to reduce methane waste and pollution from oil and gas operations while at the same time creating jobs and increasing local, state, and federal tax revenues.

In states with strong methane rules, like Colorado, oil and gas companies are cutting emissions and repairing leaks to stop energy waste. Companies in New Mexico don’t operate under the same rules, and oil and gas operators here release more than 1 million metric tons of methane every year.

The Center for Methane Emissions Solutions was founded to provide a voice for businesses like LaSen, that develop and manufacture cutting edge technologies, install commercial technologies, and aid inspectors on the job to significantly cut methane waste on a cost-effective basis across the oil and gas supply chain.

LaSen is showing that strong and evenly applied methane rules can help create jobs for New Mexicans. The sooner New Mexico gets rules in place, the sooner New Mexicans will reap the economic, environmental and public health benefits. Methane mitigation offers a solution for New Mexico to begin to realize a more prosperous future for the state.

Glenn Schiffbauer is with the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions.