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New Mexico engages with Biden’s energy secretary on methane rules

Heat-trapping gas blamed for 30-50% of rising global temperatures
New Mexico has been a major producer of oil and natural gas since hydrocarbons were first discovered in the state during the early 1920s. (Courtesy of San Juan Citizens Alliance)

ALBUQUERQUE – As New Mexico leans into renewable-energy goals, clean-air advocates highlighted both progress and challenges during a recent visit by America’s top energy official.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the state as the Biden administration looked to promote renewable-energy initiatives.

Celerah Hewes, New Mexico field consultant for Moms Clean Air Force, met with the secretary to explain the state’s clean-energy transition efforts and to highlight air-quality problems created by the oil and gas industry.

“We have a few things that are pretty unique about the way our legislative system works and how oil and gas functions in New Mexico,” Hewes said. “And how we can be a leader in kind of a transition away from fossil fuels.”

While carbon dioxide is by far the largest contributor to climate change, a recent report suggested 30% to 50% of the current rise in temperatures is attributable to methane emissions.

An analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund in 2020 estimated New Mexico’s oil and gas companies emit more than 1 million metric tons of methane annually.

Hewes argued New Mexico needs both new state and federal methane rules.

“We can make changes here in New Mexico as any state can, but when we’re talking about oil and gas and air pollution and climate change, we’re talking about problems that cross boundaries,” Hewes said. “So having a strong federal regulation is really important.”

Hewes said the meetings with Granholm also included discussions about New Mexico’s efforts to lower utility costs.

“We’re looking at electrification within our homes, and solutions that help to ensure children have some sort of equity within their homes and make it affordable for families that can’t afford it because it is an environmental-justice issue as well,” Hewes said.