After years of Moms Clean Air Force members’ advocating for a strong state methane rule, New Mexico now joins Colorado with nation-leading air pollution standards for the state’s oil and gas operations. The New Mexico rule serves as a model for pollution protections across the nation. Protections that need to be included in the upcoming EPA oil and gas methane rule include frequent inspections to find and fix leaks at all oil and gas operation sites and a ban on venting and flaring of gases.
Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is the main component of natural gas and responsible for about 25% of the climate change impacts we’re already experiencing. Oil and gas operators in New Mexico currently emit over 1.1 million metric tons of methane annually. The state’s new regulations will go a long way toward protecting the health of our families and improving air quality in our most at-risk communities.
Venting is when methane, the main component of natural gas, and other harmful pollutants are released directly into the air. Flaring is the burning of these gases. Both contribute to accelerating climate change and can impact the health of families living nearby oil and gas operations the most. This rule provides health protections for approximately 140,000 New Mexicans living within a half mile of oil and gas facilities.
In 2019, when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an Executive Order to take action on climate change, she included cuts to methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, and in just a few years, we made it happen. I was proud to stand by the Governor on that day knowing she had heard our message: that New Mexico’s children need protections from air pollution and climate change.
The New Mexico methane rule was made possible because many organizations collaborated. But the most important voice has been, and continues to be, those of New Mexicans. Moms from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances spoke at public hearings, signed petitions, wrote letters, and spoke out on behalf of children and communities living on the front line of oil and gas production, and the New Mexico Environment Department and the Governor listened.
I am thankful that New Mexico now has nation-leading rules on methane emissions and ozone pollution from oil and gas production, but our work at Moms Clean Air Force is not done until every family across our country is afforded the same protections. As the second largest oil-producing state in the nation, New Mexico sets a strong model for federal methane rules that the EPA is now proposing. Frequent inspections of small wells are especially significant, as a recent study found that these wells account for half of all the methane pollution nationally. They must be included in any federal rule if we want to protect the health of our families and move forward on climate action.
As a New Mexican, a leader of Moms Clean Air Force, and especially as a mother, I look forward to the day when all parents can breathe easier knowing that their family is protected from methane pollution.