UNITED STATES – 2007: Flaring off gas in the Jonah Field. Pollution from coal bed methane development could cloud views of Mount Rushmore and vistas in Yellowstone National Park. Since the mid-1990s more than 500 gas wells have been drilled in Jonah Field.

By Roz Brown, Public News Service

December 3, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — People who live on the Navajo Nation near the San Juan Basin are closely following work by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt new methane rules to restrict oil and gas emissions at well sites.

Kendra Pinto, community field advocate for Earthworks and a resident of the Navajo Nation, was one of several New Mexicans who testified this week when the EPA held three days of hearings to gather public input.

“The decisions made in offices hundreds of miles away from the oil fields have a direct impact on people,” Pinto asserted. “Those faces must be considered. Do not waste any more time, when change is needed now.”

On Wednesday, a coalition of oil and natural gas businesses in New Mexico released a commissioned study showing state and local governments are more reliant than ever before on the industry to pay for basic public services, including public education. It claims the oil and gas sector pumped a record $5.3 billion into New Mexico communities in Fiscal Year 2021.

Some 200 educators responded to the report, calling on elected leaders to continue efforts to diversify the state’s economy and reduce reliance on revenues from extraction.

Pinto pointed out the health of her community would be greatly improved if the new methane rules are adopted for oil and gas sites.

“Due to the proximity of the sites near schools and residential areas, it is imperative that oil and gas sites are regulated with the full authority of the Clean Air Act and monitored thoroughly,” Pinto contended.

New Mexico State Representative Debbie Saranana testified in favor of justice for the Navajo Nation and to ensure transparency from the EPA.

Under the Trump administration, the EPA rolled back limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry enacted by the Obama administration. President Joe Biden has since signed legislation to reinstate the 2016 safeguards.

References:  Proposed rules EPA 11/02/2021
Industry report N.M. Oil and Gas Assn 12/02/2021
Performance standards EPA 08/13/2020
Intial rules EPA 06/03/2016
Senate Joint Resolution 14 06/30/2021