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NM Groups Glad Methane-Waste Rule is Safe, for Now

New Mexico conservation groups say they're glad the BLM's methane-waste rule has been upheld, but they warn the Trump administration could find other ways to challenge the rule. (Jay Johnson/Creative Commons)
New Mexico conservation groups say they're glad the BLM's methane-waste rule has been upheld, but they warn the Trump administration could find other ways to challenge the rule. (Jay Johnson/Creative Commons)
May 15, 2017

Albuquerque, NM - Last week, with three Republicans siding with Democrats, the U.S. Senate narrowly halted a bid to overturn the Bureau of Land Management's natural-gas waste rule. But that doesn't mean the rule's fate has been decided. Comments from Mona Blaber (BLAY-ber), communications coordinator, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter.

Late last week, the U-S Senate narrowly rejected an attempt to overturn a rule meant to stop the release of billions of cubic feet of natural gas into the atmosphere. And while New Mexico conservation groups say they're relieved about the vote, they know the debate isn't over. Three Republicans joined all 46 Senate Democrats and two independents in rejecting the resolution to throw out the Bureau of Land Management rule. The B-L-M estimates that methane gas valued at 330-million dollars is released each year through leaks, venting and flaring at well sites on federal and tribal lands. So for now, Mona Blaber with the Rio Grande Sierra Club calls the decision a victory.

"Ninety percent of the BLM-owned public land in that Four Corners, Chaco-area region are already leased to oil and gas. That methane belongs to us, and we might as well use it to heat homes."

The vote was the last opportunity for Congress to overturn the B-L-M methane-waste rule. But that doesn't mean it is no longer threatened. Blaber says the Sierra Club has already received a call from the U-S Interior Department, saying the agency still could repeal the rule through its own rule-making process.

Blaber says what's troubling to her is the future of environmental regulations in this administration. E-P-A director Scott Pruitt announced last month he'll reconsider another Obama-era rule meant to curb methane emissions from all new sources. Blaber says conservation groups will be vigilant about similar attempts to deregulate methane emissions coming back around, in other forms.

"Had they passed this extreme measure that the Senate was considering, that would've prevented the government from ever issuing any substantially similar regulation or safeguard."

When released into the atmosphere, methane - the main ingredient of natural gas - is a potent greenhouse gas, 80-times more powerful than carbon dioxide as an agent of climate change. It already makes up an invisible cloud the size of Delaware that hangs over the Four Corners area.

Late last week, the U-S Senate narrowly rejected an attempt to overturn a rule meant to stop the release of billions of cubic feet of natural gas into the atmosphere. And while New Mexico conservation groups say they're relieved about the vote, Brett McPherson (mc-FEAR-son) reports they know the debate isn't over.

This is Brett McPherson.

Reach Blaber at 505-660-5905. Fact sheet on BLM methane-waste rule: https://on.doi.gov/2jIDaLj.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service - NM