Commentary: Aztec mayor opposes BLM Methane Rule rollback

Victor Snover
Mayor, City of Aztec
Victor Snover

In a major blow to the Four Corners region (and particularly my home of Aztec), recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior finalized destructive rollbacks to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane and Waste Prevention rule, which limits the waste of publicly owned natural gas and cuts air pollution. 

By ignoring public opinion, which strongly supports keeping the rule in place, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke demonstrates a total disregard for New Mexico taxpayers, our health and our air quality. 

Completed in 2016 after a long and thorough public process that include multiple hearings and comment periods, the BLM rule was designed to address the waste of $330 million dollars-worth of natural gas from oil and gas operations on public lands each year. 

The rule was especially important to those of us who live here in the Four Corners area of the southwest, where a Delaware-sized methane cloud attributed to oil and gas production hovers over the region. 

With neither federal nor stringent statewide methane regulations (although the latter is hopefully expected to change in the near future), there is nothing to protect New Mexicans from the impacts – financial, environmental and otherwise – of methane waste.  

Secretary Zinke’s rule repeal guts important protections against methane waste and instead allows oil and gas companies to continue operating under outdated policies that don’t align with 21st century energy production. 

The oil and gas industry no doubt plays a major and appreciated role in Aztec as well as all of New Mexico’s economy. The best in the business already adhere to modern air pollution regulations and set an honorable example. 

Others, however, are pushing back against federal changes that would ultimately save them money, not to mention bring revenue to local governments for needs like education and infrastructure. 

This repeal is a slap in the face to the thousands of local elected officials, stakeholders and the general public who participated in the multi-year process to develop this rule – and then fought hard to defend it when it came under attack. 

Gutting the rule is a blatant favor to special interests, and regions like Aztec will pay the price. 

Without commonsense standards to reduce energy waste on public lands, taxpayers will continue missing out on critical revenue, and air pollution will continue to affect industry workers, our children, and everyone else who lives and works where oil and gas production is a reality. 

Without the BLM methane rule, the Four Corners, New Mexico, and our beloved Aztec have no chance of addressing the methane cloud, which affects our health, our environment and our economy. 

The quality of our air, taxpayers’ pocketbooks, and local economies should not suffer from something that is preventable, fixable and just common sense. 

Victor Snover is the mayor of the City of Aztec.