Reducing methane emissions has been a significant focus of both the U.S. oil and natural gas industry and environmentalists in recent years. Yet, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s recently proposed Methane Mitigation Roadmap for the state’s industry to significantly reduce these emissions has been rejected by these same environmental groups.
The recommendations within the roadmap, which identifies mitigation strategies for the four most-reported sources of methane emissions, will be considered by state officials as part of the ongoing effort to create a regulatory framework to reduce these emissions.
In addition to replacing aging equipment and onsite monitoring, NMOGA’s plan would require the oil and natural gas industry to conduct annual leak detection and repair (LDAR) inspections. As NMOGA Executive Director Ryan Flynn explained:
“We know that we have a responsibility to reduce our methane emissions and this report underscores we are in fact reducing emissions through responsible operations. We will continue collaborating with willing partners in the public and private sector, while investing in advanced technology and innovation to achieve even greater reductions in methane emissions.”
Environmentalists and Activists Say the Roadmap Isn’t Enough
Environmentalists are quibbling about details of the plan, including the frequency of inspections and how to properly establish a baseline for atmospheric methane. In many instances, they are resisting working with the industry recommendations.
Jeff Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, rejected the idea of annual inspections, even though he admitted that similar programs have yielded substantial emissions reductions:
“Wyoming officials have found annual inspections only lead to about a 40 percent reduction in emissions, while quarterly inspections achieve up to 60 percent.”
According to EDF, a 40 percent reduction is a minimalist approach “that would leave New Mexico with the weakest methane regulations in the nation.”
And according to Earthworks – a “Keep It In the Ground” group that openly opposes U.S. oil and natural gas development – the only positive thing in NMOGA’s proposal was that it admitted the necessity of methane controls. Earthworks Energy Program Director Bruce Baizel told the Albuquerque Journal, “Their report suggests that they are still at odds with everyone else.”
According to data from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, the most comprehensive state-level dataset available, methane emissions from oil and natural gas production in New Mexico decreased by 51 percent from 2011 to 2017. These reductions came even as production increased 31 percent over the same period.
NMOGA’s roadmap outlines ways to continue this trend through support for annual leak detection and repair programs, onsite monitoring, and the replacement of aging equipment.
The roadmap demonstrated industry’s commitment to minimizing its environmental impact. As NMOGA Chairman Claire Chase explained:
“New Mexico’s future shines brighter with a strong oil and natural gas industry. We are committed to safely and responsibly producing the energy we need along with critical funds and tax revenue that supports our communities, public schools, and first responders.”
Environmentalists would rather ignore the facts around the industry’s clean-air track record and its commitment to continue these improvements than acknowledge that the shale revolution is delivering massive environmental benefits. Reducing global emissions is everyone’s responsibility, and the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has shown it is committed to doing its part in this worldwide effort.