New Mexico is getting serious about the importance of its vast natural resources. Earlier this year, the state established Outdoor Recreation Division within the state’s Economic Development Department. But oil and gas operations in New Mexico release more than 1 million metric tons of methane every year. When the air is dirty, people can’t hike in the state’s deserts, ride bikes in its mountains or raft, kayak and canoe down its rivers. The state has a solution.
On July 30th at the UNM School of Law in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Department of the Environment (NMED) and the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources (EMNRD) held a public stakeholder meeting to discuss the state’s first methane reduction regulations. The regulations are a key component of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order on climate change that will seek to develop an “enforceable regulatory framework to ensure methane reductions from the oil and natural gas sector and to prevent waste from the new and existing sources.” This was the second of three meetings held throughout the state. The first was held the day before in Farmington and the third would be a week later in Carlsbad.
Leading the event was Sandra Ely, Director of the Environmental Protection Division, and Adrienne Sandoval, Director of Oil Conservation Division. The first two hours were spent discussing two major components of the lawmaking process; methane as a wasted resource and the regulations of methane related to the state’s air quality. Ely and Sandoval concluded their PowerPoint presentation with an hour long Q+A portion from a wide demographic of concerned citizens. Local churches, natural gas and oil companies, environmental NGOs, Native communities and many more were represented. The last hour of the meeting was dedicated to hearing statements provided by those attending.
Public Land Solutions was present to discuss the impact methane would have on the outdoor recreation industry. We were sure to point out that Climate Change effects will impair the quality of the outdoor recreation experience; cause health and safety concerns for recreationists; and inhibit the outdoor recreation economy. The currently occurring—and accelerating—effects of climate change on public lands and waters and the recreational opportunities they support are extensive and increasingly well documented. Methane emissions account for 25% of the climate change we see today.