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Sunday , October 21 2018
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BLM Finalizes Rule to Curb Natural-Gas Waste

SANTA FE, N.M. – In these waning days of the Obama administration, the Bureau of Land Management just finalized a new set of rules to cut down on natural-gas emissions at well sites on public land.

Studies have shown that gas valued at about $330 million is wasted each year through leaks, venting and flaring at well sites – just under a third of that in New Mexico alone – which means lost royalties for state and tribal governments.

Laurie Weahkee, executive director of the Native American Voters Alliance and the Dine (Navajo) Cochiti and Zuni Pueblo, applauded the new regulations.

“For one, it protects the earth,” she said. “We’re concerned about the emissions and its impact on our communities. When all that harmful pollution is prevented, then it makes money for the tribes, as well as it protects our climate.”

The new rules will be phased in and will require companies to install methane-capture equipment on their wells. A “threat map” released by The Wilderness Society and Earthworks shows that nearly 50,000 New Mexicans live within a half-mile of oil and gas wells on BLM-managed land.

Jim Ramey, outreach coordinator for The Wilderness Society, said the change cracks down on air pollutants that are harmful to human health and that contribute to climate change.

“This rule tries to cut back on all of that,” he said, “through having companies actually look for leaks and repair them, through putting limits on the intentional burning through flaring and venting.”

Ramey said he thinks the regulations could survive the next administration because they prevent waste, create compliance-related jobs that cannot be outsourced, and ultimately will save oil and gas companies money, since the gas that once was wasted can now be sold.

The regulations are online at

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM

BLM Promotes Renewable Energy for NM Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management has finalized rules that encourage increased solar and wind energy production on public lands, and it’s making New Mexico a priority.

The policies create a competitive process similar to the way oil and gas leases are granted. The new rules also offer financial incentives to steer production away from key environmental, cultural and recreational resources, said Alex Daue, assistant director of energy and climate at The Wilderness Society.

“And this rule will ensure that our public lands continue to be a place where we can build wind and solar projects delivering clean energy, growing our economy and protecting the places that people love in the West,” Daue said.

The BLM said that putting some 700,000 acres of public lands to work in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah should help the agency reach the Obama administration’s goal of developing 20,000 megawatts of renewable power by 2020.

Shifting political winds after Donald Trump’s upset victory have put the future of many of the current administration’s environmental initiatives into question, notably the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Daue said he is confident the BLM’s new policies can withstand the GOP control of the White House and Congress.

“With the rule-making, BLM will be receiving fair market value for the use of public lands as called for by Congress. And western communities strongly support more renewable energy development,” Daue said. “We think that it will stand on its own merits and should stand the test of time.”

Under the old rules, he added, getting a permit for development could take up to two years, but the new streamlined process should cut that time by more than half for areas with high power-generation potential. The regulations will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – NM

New Methane regulations could improve NM Air Quality, Revenues

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Proposed new regulations for oil and gas producers on federal and tribal lands could not only clean the air, but also could pump millions of extra dollars into New Mexico’s economy.

The Bureau of Land Management last week issued a draft rule that would require energy companies to install new technology to avoid the venting, leaking or flaring of methane at well sites.

Jason Libersky, co-founder and owner of Quantigy Engineering, says capturing the methane from wells could mean an economic boost in a down oil market.

“When oil is, say, $100 a barrel, your associated gas will be between 3 and 5 percent of the return on the well,” he points out. “And then when you’re around $30 a barrel, the associated gas can be north of 20 or 25 percent.”

The BLM is planning a series of public meetings on the draft rule in February and March. The proposal is part of President Barack Obama’s overall plan to reduce methane pollution by nearly half over the next decade.

Libersky, whose company engineers parts and systems for drilling rigs, says much of the methane released on New Mexico lands is from older wells and equipment.

He says for many producers, the cost of installing equipment to capture the methane could be quickly recovered.

“For a well that’s been out there in the elements, producing for 20 or 30 years, it can be as easy as re-plumbing the piping and then replacement of a few valves,” he explains.

The EPA reports that, as a greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

In addition, the loss of methane has cost New Mexico taxpayers almost $43 million in royalties since 2009. Nationally, oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal lands waste upwards of $330 million worth of gas.

Author: Mark Richardson/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service – NM