WASHINGTON (KRQE) – New Mexico lawmakers are fighting a move in Washington to get rid of a rule that limits waste from oil and gas companies. They believe that waste is the cause of that giant methane cloud over the Four Corners area.
NASA has documented that cloud over the years. It shows the largest plume of methane in the nation. While NASA is still investigating, they say the likely sources are venting from oil and gas activities, active coal mines and natural gas seeps.
In November, a rule was passed under President Obama that would require oil and gas operators to limit the methane emissions. Now the Republican led House has passed a measure to get rid of that rule. It’s now in front of the Senate.
New Mexico state lawmakers and Congressman Tom Udall argue that it would be very harmful to New Mexico in a number of ways.
“When methane is released, so are harmful pollutants that have harmful consequences — benzene linked to cancer, small pollutants trigger asthma,” Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Bernalillo, said.
“The natural gas is owned by the taxpayers, but instead of earning royalties, over $100 million worth of gas is going to waste each year just in New Mexico,” Sen. Udall said.
State lawmakers argue that extra $100 million could help the state budget crisis. Many Republican argue the rules are hurting business.
Other states like Colorado have enacted their own methane waste rules — something New Mexico lawmakers are also looking to do so that we don’t have to rely on the federal rules.