Center for American Progress

RELEASE: San Juan Basin Continues to Be a Hot Spot of Oil and Gas Methane Waste and Pollution
Press Release

RELEASE: San Juan Basin Continues to Be a Hot Spot of Oil and Gas Methane Waste and Pollution

Washington, D.C. — In 2014, ConocoPhillips topped the list of companies with the most methane pollution in the onshore oil and gas production sector. Of the regions with the most methane pollution, the San Juan Basin ranked number one in the nation for methane pollution per well, according to a new report by the Center for American Progress titled “The Who’s Who of Methane Pollution in the Onshore Oil and Gas Production Sector.”

“The United States has made significant strides in the past decade to cut dangerous air pollution, but methane pollution from the oil and gas industry remains largely unchecked,” said Alison Cassady, Director of Domestic Energy Policy at CAP and author of the report. “This report shows that without mandatory limits on methane pollution from all sources in the oil and gas sector, industry will continue to pump millions of metric tons of dangerous methane gas into our atmosphere and our communities.”

The Washington, D.C.-based think tank analyzed 2014 data on methane emissions reported by the oil and gas industry to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.

CAP found that the onshore oil and gas production sector released the equivalent of 48 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014, or about the same amount of pollution as 14 coal-fired power plants. The oil and gas industry is the single largest contributor of industrial methane pollution in the country.

Only 11 companies are responsible for nearly half—49 percent—of the methane pollution from onshore oil and gas production. Out of the 15 regions with the most methane pollution from oil and gas production, New Mexico’s San Juan Basin ranked third in overall emissions at 5.2 million metric tons and number one in per-well emissions at 227 metric tons per well.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and is wasted at oil and gas operations through venting, flaring, and leaks. New Mexico local officials, business groups, and advocacy organizations have criticized the waste, noting millions of dollars in lost royalty and severance tax revenue.

“New Mexico has lost more than $50 million in revenue over the past five years due to oil and gas companies wasting natural gas on our public lands,” said Glenn Schiffbauer, executive director of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce.

ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, EOG Resources Inc., and BP America ranked first through fifth for the most methane emissions from onshore production. Even though ConocoPhillips reduced its methane pollution between 2013 and 2014, the company still released 4.65 million metric tons—33 percent more methane than the next-highest-ranking company.

“ConocoPhillips operates every single well that is on or near our ranch. This report is so disturbing for our family—it shows that voluntary efforts are not nearly enough, not by a long shot,” said Don Schreiber, owner of Devil’s Spring Ranch in Rio Arriba County, with oil and gas wells on his private ranchlands and federal land allotments.

Last month, the EPA adopted a rule to cut methane pollution from new and modified oil and gas sources, and the Bureau of Land Management is expected to finalize a rule later this year to cut methane waste on federal and tribal lands.

Alongside methane, oil and gas operations also pollute ozone-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic chemicals such as benzene. The same strategies and technologies that companies deploy to cut methane would have the co-benefit of cutting other dangerous air pollutants.

“This report highlights the need for oil and gas companies to continue to make significant cuts in methane waste and pollution,” said Barbara Webber, executive director of Health Action New Mexico. “The good news is that reducing these leaks will be a win-win for New Mexico. It improves the health of those living in affected areas while ensuring our natural resources bolster the state economy.”

This past spring, the American Lung Association gave Eddy and San Juan counties, the state’s highest oil- and natural-gas-producing counties, respectively, a failing grade for ozone pollution in its annual “State of the Air” report.

Click here to read the CAP report.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Joseph Calvallo at [email protected] or 312.399.3512.


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