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 May 30 - Jun 5, 2019 
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Environment

Let’s Get Polluted!

Methane emissions are concerning

By
United States Energy Association

There is a lot of methane in these parts.

The global warming phenomenon is helped along by the emission of this hydrocarbon gas because it is heavy and traps heat in the atmosphere. There’s a heap of it floating over the state for two reasons: natural gas production and cows.

Now the state is taking action to regulate and ultimately limit the amount of this dangerous substance being floated into the atmosphere by natural gas extraction operations throughout The Land of Enchantment while attempts to restore variations of the methane rule continue up on Capitol Hill in Washington.

This legislative and regulatory action comes at a time when fears of radical, human-caused climate change are on the increase, even in the face of reports from a national environmental agency that point to a less catastrophic model based on observations made over a 10-year period.

The report issued by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration—admittedly a division within the US Commerce Department run by millionaire investor Wilbur Ross, a technocrat with ties to both Russian and Venezuelan oil and gas transport firms—showed less of an increase in greenhouse gases than was predicted by climate scientists.

Interestingly, the methods used to gather these findings have come under question, even it seems, by some of the scientists who published the data.

The data is self-reported. Oil and gas companies with operations at 20 long-term sampling sites around the country in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network were asked to report their methane emissions to the NAOA. Further, the measurement methods used for the detection of ethane, a byproduct of methane, to measure methane output from non-organic sources (cows don’t produce ethane).

So the study didn’t take into account methane produced by organic sources and was ultimately based on data produced by the main producers themselves. Given these circumstances, it’s no wonder that the document concluded that there had been no statistically significant increase in atmospheric methane over the past 10 years.

But project scientist Xin Lan told the Carlsbad daily, “you want to track methane, you have to measure methane.” Data further suggested that any rise in methane levels had been “dominated” by organic processes like those involving dairy farms and cattle ranches.

Lan seems confident that with more sampling sites and better data-gathering techniques, there would be a better accounting of both the amounts and origins of this greenhouse gas pollutant, telling the Carlsbad Current Argus in conclusion that, “If we had more sampling sites, we would be able to provide more specificity about methane sources in regions dominated by agriculture and oil and gas.”

The publication of the study, meanwhile, has done little to put the kibosh on efforts by the Lujan Grisham administration to further regulate the production and emission of methane in the state of New Mexico. The administration is approaching the issue through proactive regulatory actions and interactions with the state’s extensive list of oil and gas producers who have come to dominate the state’s economy in the past couple years.

Methane in New Mexico

A report published by the Environmental Defense Fund in April 2019 suggests that current EPA reporting of methane emissions in the state amounts to underreporting and that, in fact, gas extraction operations are responsible for methane emissions that are “approximately five times more than EPA data suggests, or about 1.016 million metric tons in 2017.”

Again test parameters, data-gathering methods and overall outcome expectations have much to do with this discrepancy. Much like the situation at the NAOA, the direct result of such methodologies, in combination with close associations with the industry being investigated, may have resulted in underreporting—and consequently a view that there is no crisis, after all—of a critical component in the climate change equation.

Progressive Efforts

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, strict enforcement directed toward lowering methane emissions in the state would result in having access to $43 million in funds lost to taxation and royalties paid to wasted methane that is lost to the air and contributes significantly to global climate change.

In line with such a plan, house Democrats, led by cosponsor Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico), presented legislation this month to set specific caps for methane emissions. This legislative action comes in the face of the reversal of rules from the Department of the Interior by the Trump administration. The new laws would require DOI to establish more stringent requirements for total emissions as well as for the reporting of emissions by federal agencies.

Meanwhile, state agencies in The Land of Enchantment have taken on the task putting methane out to pasture as well. In April, the New Mexico Environmental Department began undertaking renewed regulatory efforts in concert with the executive order 2019-003, which addresses the state’s response to global climate change and energy waste mitigation.

Lujan Grisham’s executive order recognizes the threat of global climate change for what it is. The order calls for strict regulation and development of a task force to create a climate strategy. It also calls for adherence to the Paris Accords, sharply defining its progressivism and subsequent call for action.


 
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