Sante Fe New Mexican: National Leadership on Methane Policy is Critical

Common sense prevailed earlier this month when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the strongest climate executive orders in the nation, calling on the state’s agencies to quickly develop comprehensive statewide methane regulations to cut energy waste from the oil and gas industry and improve air quality.

This came just weeks after Wyoming finalized standards to reduce air pollution from new oil and gas development in the state and help cut methane and natural gas waste.

Leaders from both political parties in oil and gas producing states across the country have made it clear that they understand the significance of our country’s methane emissions problem, which is the result of natural gas leaks from oil and gas equipment, and the benefits of improving efficiency, creating jobs, supporting a more responsible industry and bringing more natural gas to market by mitigating this waste.

As drilling continues to increase in the West and across the U.S., now is the time for policymakers to implement clear, consistent rules to reduce oil and gas emissions — and one clear way to do that is by supporting the booming methane mitigation industry, which is made up of companies that manufacture and deploy technologies to cut methane waste. The industry, which is made up of more than 130 companies including 590 manufacturing, sales and support facilities, and company headquarters across 46 states, is thriving and ready to tackle the nation’s serious methane waste problem.

Lujan Grisham’s decision to pursue this strategy is especially important because the Trump administration continues to turn back the clock, repealing critical federal standards that reduce methane waste by requiring industry to regularly check for and repair leaking equipment.

New Mexico’s executive order for comprehensive statewide methane regulations follows in the footsteps of several other states including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio and California. Leaders in these states have either committed to or have started implementing regulatory strategies to reduce methane emissions and bring more natural gas to market.

While the real work is just getting started to achieve the goals set out in New Mexico’s executive order, the state has set an important national precedent for where smart oil and gas policy should be headed.

With more than $2 billion worth of natural gas wasted annually throughout the U.S., it is an important development that states such as New Mexico and Wyoming have stepped up to address emissions. More work remains, however, as several of the nation’s largest energy-producing states, such as North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma, have avoided doing so.

That is why national leadership on methane policy is so critical. New Mexico’s lead and look to industry leaders and states that have demonstrated smart rules can make operations more efficient, create jobs and support a growing economic sector across the country. The Trump administration should look to the experience of the states instead of reflexively rolling back sensible and effective federal methane rules.

Isaac Brown serves as executive director of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions. Previously, Brown served as an energy adviser to several senior members of Congress on energy issues.