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For NM, Methane Mitigation Means Cleaner Air, Good Jobs

Plugging natural-gas leaks is providing more jobs for New Mexicans, along with protecting the environment. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Plugging natural-gas leaks is providing more jobs for New Mexicans, along with protecting the environment. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
April 12, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. - A new report shows a booming business in stopping leaks in natural-gas pipelines across the country.

While cleaner air is good news for the environment in New Mexico, it might be just as big a boon to the job market, since these companies are hiring workers to perform methane mitigation. The report showed at least 60 mitigation companies working in 45 states.

Marcy Lowe, chief executive of Datu Research, a group related to Duke University that published the report, explained why it's important to stop these leaks.

"Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas," she said. "Actually, in the short term, it's more powerful than carbon dioxide. So, it's very, very important to try to keep it out of the atmosphere."

Critics of methane recapture have claimed this type of service comes with too high a price tag for natural-gas suppliers. However, Lowe pointed out that the savings from preventing the loss of product into the atmosphere nearly always outweigh the cost of stopping the leaks.

According to the report, unmitigated leaks cost an estimated $1.3 billion in lost natural gas each year, and that translates to more job opportunities for people in New Mexico. Especially in states with methane regulations, Lowe said, the mitigation industry has experienced up to 30 percent employment growth across a wide field of demographics.

"We found that they were offering a range of jobs with different experience needed," she said, "starting with just out of high school to highly skilled engineers and Ph.Ds."

The report said the majority of methane-mitigation firms are small businesses founded in the past six years that have high upward mobility and salaries ranging from $27,000 to more than $100,000 per year.

The Datu report is online at edf.org.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service - NM