US House Passes Action To Restore Federal Methane Rules | Local News
The US House on Friday passed a resolution to restore Obama-era rules limiting methane emissions from new oil and gas wells, a move that would affect New Mexico’s growing fossil fuel industry .
The resolution, which received a 229-191 vote and reflects a Senate bill passed in April, will go to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.
Environmental groups hailed the action, calling it an essential step in reducing air pollution that threatens public health and exacerbates climate change.
“This is especially important in New Mexico because you see so much new drilling and new sources online,” said Jon Goldstein, director of state policy for the Environmental Defense Fund.
In addition to restoring the old US Environmental Protection Agency rules, the bill will lay the groundwork for the agency to pass tougher rules that cover the tens of thousands of wells installed before 2016 – which represent the Most methane emissions, Goldstein said.
As a greenhouse gas, methane has more than 80 times more impact on the climate than carbon dioxide.
Industry groups have expressed mixed views on state and federal efforts to stem the potent greenhouse gas, with some saying tougher rules hurt small operators. But the reinstatement of the 2016 rules had the backing of several major oil producers such as BP and a list of trade groups.
These groups and some Republican lawmakers argue that evolving technology is already reducing methane pollution.
A spokesperson for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association echoed the sentiment in an email while insisting that the state’s industry is committed to releasing less methane.
“Industry-led efforts to reduce emissions are working and will hopefully be recognized by federal policymakers,” wrote spokesperson Robert McEntyre. “The technology is advancing rapidly and has made significant progress since the first federal methane rules were put in place four and a half years ago. This fact should be reflected in any policy directly regulating methane now or in the future. “
But an industry advocacy group bluntly criticized the measure in an email, calling it a new attack on oil and gas producers.
“Unfortunately, this measure will likely lead to higher costs for consumers and even job losses for small producers in a state where gas prices have increased by 50% from last year and where our rate of unemployment is the second worst in the country, ”wrote Larry Behrens, director of the Western States section of the nonprofit Power the Future.
State regulators argue that the restored federal rules will dovetail with New Mexico’s recent push to strengthen oversight of fossil fuel pollution.
This will help ensure that neighboring states also control emissions so that pollution does not cross borders, Environment Secretary James Kenney wrote in an email.
“A national framework for reducing oil and gas emissions is essential to establish a level playing field among states,” Kenney wrote. “This will further benefit air quality in New Mexico by reducing the transport of emissions from other states.”
This is the first congressional move to overturn a Trump-era environmental policy and also the first time Democratic lawmakers have used the Congressional Review Act to overturn federal regulations.
Republicans under President Donald Trump have used the CRA to overturn several Obama administration rules, including one that prohibited mining companies from dumping waste into waterways.
An environmentalist praised the use of the ARC to bring back what she said was vital climate and air quality protection.
The rules would serve as the basis for the EPA to issue new regulations for methane in all industry operations, including the oldest and most polluting ones, said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Rio Grande section of the Sierra Club. .
Last week, the EPA held “listening sessions” that allowed the public to comment on the need for stricter fossil fuel regulations, Feibelman said, adding that the agency was planning to make updates. update later this year.
Operators should be required to capture 65% of methane emissions by 2025, she said.
“It’s been five years since these rules came into effect,” Feibelman said. “We’re going to have to make the rules even stricter if they are to make sense at this climatic moment.”