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Public Health New Mexico
In this KUNM series, reporter Laura Paskus explores natural gas drilling and the burgeoning oil industry in northwestern New Mexico--its benefits, impacts, and future. Funding provided by the New Venture Fund.

Enviro Group Says Methane Rules Could Curb Smog

Ed Williams
Natural gas well in Garfield County, CO

The Obama Administration recently proposed new standards that would reduce methane emissions from natural gas operations across the country, and environmental advocates say the new rules could have some health benefits for people living near gas wells.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and environmental groups are hailing the rules as an important step in fighting global warming. But Camilla Feibelman of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande chapter says cutting methane could also reduce air pollution in communities near drilling operations.

"Methane releases are associated with releases of other chemicals like benzene, that are the basis for the formation of smog," Feibleman said. "The presence of smog in our environment can lead to asthma, lung disease, heart disease, and in extreme cases, premature death."

But energy groups aren’t happy with the proposal. The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association says the rules would add costs and red tape to energy production.

The EPA will hold a public comment period and a series of community meetings before finalizing the methane reductions.

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