May 23, 2022 –
Methane is responsible for 25% of climate pollution and is the most potent greenhouse gas. In the first two decades after its release, it traps 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than the carbon dioxide that comes out of your car’s tailpipe. Its potency speeds up the rate of global warming, ensuring that the extreme wildfires, flooding, and the other effects of climate change we are experiencing today will get worse.
In addition, wherever methane is leaked into the air from fracking and drilling sites, carcinogenic toxins are released into the air right alongside it. These carcinogens are putting thousands of children, older adults, pregnant women, and vulnerable communities at risk of health problems. Young children are more vulnerable to these carcinogens and pollution because their lungs are still developing. Nearly 1 in 10 American children has asthma, with air pollution being a contributing factor. Long-term exposure to air pollution significantly increases the risk of a child developing asthma. But 2.9 million children go to school within a half-mile of oil and gas operations, according to Moms Clean Air Force. And we know that people who are living close to oil and gas sites in New Mexico have increased rates of asthma, pulmonary disease, COPD exacerbation, and other respiratory problems.
In November 2021, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules in the fight against the climate crisis and to protect public health. The rules – which are currently under review – would reduce methane and other harmful air pollution from both new and existing sources in the oil and natural gas industry. These rules include:
- expanding and strengthening emissions, the reduction requirements that are currently on the books for new, modified, and reconstructed oil and natural gas sources; and
- requiring states to reduce methane emissions from the hundreds of thousands of existing sources nationwide for the first time.
While we await action on the federal level, the state’s Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) recently adopted new rules that will require oil and gas producers to curb the amount of methane that is leaked and flared from their facilities. This is important because more than half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions are coming from oil and gas producers. And New Mexico is the second-largest producer of oil in the nation, meaning we have an important role to play in the country’s response to these climate change agents.
What does this mean for New Mexico?
New Mexico is getting hotter and drier—the entire Southwest region is. From snowpack depletion to low reservoirs, catastrophic wildfires, and low flow in the Rio Grande—we are seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change due to the emissions of toxins and greenhouse gasses.
We have a responsibility to our communities to make smart decisions now and in the future. The time to act on methane is now because reducing emissions will have immediate benefits to the climate, and it is the quickest opportunity we have to slow the rate of global warming immediately. Together we can keep leaning into the conversation and influencing positive change.
Read more on EPA’s proposal and opportunities to provide comment
NMEPHN is a project of New Mexico Voices for Children