Today’s announcement of a climate pact between the U.S. and Canada is great news for public health, landscape health, rural communities, the climate, and more. With Canada’s agreement to reduce methane pollution from its oil and gas industry by 40-45 percent over the next 10 years, the Obama administration has leveraged its leadership on methane to multiply the effects of efforts already underway here in the U.S.
Methane knows no border, and as the second and fourth highest global emitters of methane respectively, cooperation between the U.S. and Canada demonstrates how strong national leadership can help spark urgently needed global action that benefits all peoples.
Methane waste threatens public health because dangerous pollutants are released alongside methane. It squanders energy that could be used by homes, schools, and businesses, and robs public treasuries of royalty revenue. This waste also harms other resource values and makes an outsize contribution to climate change—it is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
In New Mexico alone, oil and natural gas producers wasted more than 250,000 metric tons of methane in 2013 – nearly enough to meet the annual cooking and heating needs for all the homes in Albuquerque and double the greenhouse gas emissions of the state’s 700,000 cars. Taxpayers in the state have also missed out on $42.7 million in royalty revenues since 2009.
Venting (deliberate emissions to the air), flaring (burning at the well site), and leaks waste $227 million worth of natural gas each year on federal lands, which could be used to heat 1 million homes and represent the climate pollution of 12 coal-fired power plants. In addition, methane waste results in more drilling, with negative landscape impacts including more wells, roads, traffic, pipelines, flares and habitat loss.
“U.S. and Canadian leadership on methane reflects the considerable community-based support for climate action,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “By reducing methane pollution from oil and gas development, this rule will help clean up our western skies, safeguard our climate, protect our communities, and plug the leakage, each year, of almost $130 million of wasted natural gas in Colorado and New Mexico.”
“The oil and gas industry has been a primary contributor to methane emissions in the Four Corners region of the U.S.; they have operated for many decades in the San Juan Basin region of the Navajo Nation,” said Carol Davis of Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment. “Our organization is committed to supporting this collective effort between the U.S. and Canada to protect our rural communities, sacred landscapes and the health of our Diné people who live in that area.”
“The news that the EPA will regulate existing sources of methane emissions is a great step forward as it recognizes impacts to communities with long histories of oil and gas development,” said Mike Eisenfeld, energy and climate programs manager for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “In the Four Corners, where there are over 40,000 existing oil and gas wells, it is particularly important to initiate a systemic approach to decrease methane emissions from existing sources.”
“Methane reductions have the potential to benefit sportsmen in the U.S. and Canada in part through improved planning,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “For example, in Northern New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region, a haphazard patchwork of lands leased for oil and gas development results in islands of wildlife habitat unusable to game animals. We applaud the administration for pursuing broad-reaching landscape improvements that will benefit sportsmen and their contributions to local economies.”
“Reducing methane waste is important for landscape health, especially in New Mexico,” said Oscar Simpson, public lands/legislative chair of Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico. “This rule has the potential to drive more intelligent oil and gas development, clean up our air and water, and improve important landscape features like wildlife corridors.”
Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, 575-613-4197, Thomas Singer, Ph.D, Western Environmental Law Center, 505-231-1070, Carol Davis, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, 928-221-7859,
Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 505-360-8994, Garrett VeneKlasen, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Oscar Simpson, Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico, 505-917-2134,
Read more about WELC’s work to reduce methane emissions here.