Thursday, July 06, 2017

Climate, poverty woes fuel BLM rule debate in N.M. gas patch

Pamela King

Desert sand crunches beneath Don Schreiber's boots as he approaches a gas well on his sprawling ranch in the heart of the San Juan Basin. The equipment is painted yellow and green to blend in with the scrub. But there's no hiding the odor of rotting eggs that wafts across the arid terrain. "Smell that?" Schreiber asks. Methane itself has no scent, but the gas is often emitted alongside chemical compounds like benzene and xylene that can be detected in the air by their pungent aromas. That persistent fragrance on his Devil's Spring Ranch lit a fire under Schreiber to get involved in the Obama administration's efforts to craft a rule to limit emissions of the potent greenhouse gas from energy production on federal lands...Sporting his signature ten-gallon hat, Schreiber was a regular Capitol Hill fixture during lawmakers' battle to kill the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) earlier this year. When Senate Republicans failed to garner enough votes to open debate on a resolution disapproving the regulation, Schreiber came home to congratulatory placards handwritten by his wife, Jane..."Because New Mexico is so dependent on oil and gas, the industry's health is of paramount interest to us," said Carla Sonntag, president and founder of the New Mexico Business Coalition, which she runs from her Albuquerque home in the company of her husband, Larry; her dog, Molly; and a growing support staff. During the CRA battle, Sonntag was a leading voice on the costs companies would bear if they were required to comply with the Obama administration's methane rule. She often quoted an estimate of up to $50,000 per wellhead to meet the rule's requirements. That would shut in many of New Mexico's marginal wells, Sonntag said. Provisions designed to exempt wells for which implementation would not be economically feasible did little to quell her concerns (Energywire, March 13). "When a government forces solutions on a business, they're rarely the right solutions," she said. "When government sets standards and allows business or operators to find a way to meet them, that's when the ingenuity kicks in."...more

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