By William S. Perkins,
Published in the Albuquerque on Feb 14, 2017
Last year news reported a large methane cloud over the 4-corners region was visible from space satellites. At the time, there was speculation as to the origin of the potent greenhouse gas hovering nearby Farmington: was it natural?…..a byproduct of old mining sites?….or connected to fracking infrastructure? At a February 2016 public forum held at San Juan College oil and gas industry representatives insisted that the industry pipes, tanks, valves, etc. could not be the source of such a cloud. They observed that the methane gas was valuable to their companies and that their quality-control systems ensured that the methane cloud was not from their infrastructure.
A recently published study with input from NASA and NOAA confirmed that the cloud of methane was largely the by-product of some 250+ leaks of the oil and gas infrastructure.
Now, Republicans want to do away with the Obama era BLM rules strengthening the monitoring and management of leaked methane gas. They suggest that such regulation of the fossil fuel industry needlessly adds cost to energy serving both our industry and people. Regulation, they say, is “too expensive.”
This position ignores that our climate is systematically warming due to buildup of greenhouse gases, predominantly CO2 and methane from the extraction and use of fossil fuels. Climate scientists have made the case for the need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, to avert the dire effects of climate change, including the rise in sea level, certain to impact coastal cities.
The costs of vigorously regulating methane are modest when compared to the costs of mitigating sea level rise. The rejection of appropriate regulation illustrates the failure of the Republican Party to forthrightly address the fossil fuel industry’s role in the buildup of global greenhouse gases, which in turn illustrates the corrupting influence of money and power. Republicans have backed themselves into a corner and may ultimately work to shield fossil fuel industry and investors from the responsibility they properly bear, for the sake of a continuation of Republican power in Washington. This course will ensure that taxpayers will be stuck with paying for the degrading effects of fossil fuel.
Americans should support aggressive regulation of methane waste.