Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) today voiced its concern over a newly released study performed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where scientists evaluated the Four Corners region after earlier satellite imagery identified a “methane hotspot” providing both limited and lopsided data.
The study, a skewed “snapshot”, focused specifically on the border between Colorado and New Mexico in the San Juan Basin, and only looked at sites where energy is produced, transported, stored and converted, without evaluating other sources of methane emitters. It also lacked valuable, balanced data during another contentious year for energy development due to low oil and natural gas prices and expanding regulations.
“Like many concerned citizens, we are glad that both the scientific and academic community are looking into sources of methane,” said Andrew Browning, chief operating officer at CEA. “However, we want them to understand the implications of releasing one-sided data that could be to the detriment of families, households, and local businesses in small towns of the New Mexico and Colorado Four Corners area. These communities are already suffering the negative impacts of onerous regulations on the oil and gas industry — a key driver of the economy — and studies like this drive policy and regulations that affect energy development.”
In addition to the stringent air quality standards, developed and upheld by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), emissions and particle pollution within the Four Corners region remain the lowest in the country, according to the American Lung Association’s 2016 State of the Air report, despite NASA’s elusion to inordinate amounts of methane emissions. Durango didn’t even register for the list and Farmington ranked number one in the “Top 25 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Year-Round Particle Pollution,” with San Juan County listed as one of the “Top Cleanest Counties” in the country.
“Even with low levels of emissions, infrastructure updates and a track record of sustainable development since the 1940s, Farmington is suffering the loss of much-needed gross receipt tax revenue that represents 64 percent of what is collected by the local government,” Browning said.
And just recently, the school system underwent a $4 million dollar budget loss and San Juan County lost more than 9,000 jobs, roughly 17 percent of its workforce. With school budget cuts, fewer jobs and less money to put back into the community, San Juan County and especially the city of Farmington are experiencing losses in population and businesses alike.
Audra Winters, President/CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce and a member of CEA’s Northwest New Mexico Advisory Group, also stated that “while it sounds ominous, the people of the Four Corners area and those who would seek to do business here should understand that our air quality is among the cleanest in the country, and that NASA itself released a study in March showing that methane emissions from oil and gas production doesn’t even register on a global scale.”
CEA supports NASA’s attempt to address public concern and increase awareness over environmental impacts, especially air quality, to the region. However, the data must be balanced and comprehensive, as it is clear the livelihoods of these communities are at stake.