Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NM - State of Waste

Driving the roads through oil and gas country at night, two kinds of illumination stand out on the desert horizon: the towers of halogen lights that shine on drill rigs while they run 24 hours a day, and the several-foot-tall flames of methane being burned off rather than captured. In the name of millions in lost royalties and reduced environmental impacts, the federal government has taken several stabs at recouping this wasted natural gas—lost through industry practices called flaring and venting, as well as through leaks. An analysis of the methane emissions in New Mexico indicates the state missed out on $50 million in royalties since 2010, according to a report released in March by the Western Values Project, which campaigns for balancing energy development and conservation. Of about $330 million in natural gas lost through flaring and leaks in the entire US in 2013, roughly $100 million of it came from New Mexico, according to an analysis that ICF International conducted for the Environmental Defense Fund. “The state is in a problematic budget environment right now,” Goldstein says. “The state Legislature is looking at cuts to schools and services and things like that, and capturing more methane would mean more revenue back to the state.” New federal rules will take a crack at reducing emissions, which have contributed to a methane cloud the size of Delaware over northwestern New Mexico. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management have each drafted a plan for reducing those emissions, the first coming at it from the perspective of air pollution, given methane’s role as a potent greenhouse gas, and the second from the lost royalties angle, with the BLM estimating that nationwide, states, tribes and federal taxpayers lose as much as $23 million annually in royalty revenue through flaring and leaks...more

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