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Oil and gas leasing reform to continue in 2023

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Roz Brown

(New Mexico News Connection) The Environmental Protection Agency's supplemental waste prevention rule released last month was praised by conservation groups, who nonetheless argued it must be strengthened. 

Melissa Hornbein, senior attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, said the proposal is a step in improving a draft rule issued by the EPA last year. 

She said she wants to see language in the rules tightened to reduce any kind of broad interpretation.

"They've recognized they have authority over these issues, and taking the next step further to actually implement some very specific measures," said Hornbein, "primarily targeted at reducing venting and flaring."

New Mexico residents are expected to testify next month in virtual hearings on a draft rule to curb methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. The hearings are scheduled January 10 through 12, with more information online at '' 

Each year, the U.S. oil and gas sector emits 16 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere - according to the Sierra Club - which disproportionately affects vulnerable and frontline communities.

At his Four Corners ranch in New Mexico, owner Don Schreiber said he is surrounded by 122 oil and gas wells on adjacent public lands. 

He said he's been advocating for stricter venting and flaring rules for decades. 

He said the extraction industry shouldn't be allowed to continue self-reporting on its methane waste - which he described as the "fox guarding the henhouse," because the true value of royalties owed to the state remain unknown. 

"As kind-of a veteran of this whole 'waste control federal regulation' matter, this really is moving in the right direction," said Schreiber. "It falls short, it needs to be strengthened - but we're moving in the right direction."

A new mineral-mapping instrument aboard the International Space Station released images in October of a previously unknown large methane leak from a gas well along the Pecos River, 10 miles southeast of Carlsbad. 

NASA said its "EMIT ground-scanning instrument" is an updated version of one that has mapped the highly potent greenhouse gas across the Permian Basin in the past.