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Media Contact:

Hilary Lewis, Earthworks, 202-887-1872 x101, hlewis@earthworks.org |
Monica Sanchez, Chair Grijalva, 202-306-1333, monica.sanchez@mail.house.gov

Counselor, NM — Today, Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Committee Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) used optical gas imaging to see normally invisible air pollution from oil and gas operations in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin with environmental advocacy group Earthworks.

“When oil and gas companies are allowed to release dangerous methane pollution into the air it’s bad for the environment, our economy, and public health. Today, we saw firsthand that there is nothing safe about methane waste. With Democrats in charge of the Natural Resources Committee we’ll continue fighting to reduce methane emissions, fight climate change, and protect our clean air.”  Chair Grijalva

“Methane emissions are harming our environment and polluting the air that our children and families breathe. It is abundantly clear that action on climate change is necessary for New Mexico – we can’t afford to wait while the problem worsens.”  Assistant Speaker Luján

“Chaco’s significance, history, and culture is something everyone should experience, but this administration is owned by big oil and continuously threatens the site. We’ll have to stay vigilant to protect our sacred landscapes from being drilled out of existence. Our team showed up to see the extent that emissions can harm the air and land that holds our heritage, and we toured the ancestral homelands of the Pueblo people. We’ll use this on-the-ground experience to further our efforts to ensure Chaco is here for our future generations.” – Vice Chair Haaland

“Methane is a particularly potent and harmful pollutant and greenhouse gas. This lends to negative environmental and health impacts locally as well as increases the risk to our climate globally. What was also particularly striking after seeing the methane leaks for myself was the amount of energy resources being lost. The Trump administrations rollback of Obama’s important regulatory policies to address this issue was unacceptable and dangerous but again and again we see the current president advancing a pro oil and gas polluters agenda to the detriment of the environment and the public’s health and safety.” – Subcommittee Chair Lowenthal

The group visited DJR Operating’s Venado Canyon Unit on Sunday, April 14, 2019 near Counselor, NM and used optical gas imaging to find evidence of air pollution. Optical gas imaging of the site and images of the group in the field will be available for download here.

“Earthworks staff have found pollution at these sites multiple times over the past two years. Without strong new national rules, we are unsurprised that the pollution persists,” said Lauren Pagel, Earthworks Policy Director. “Places like the San Juan Basin need national safeguards that require the oil and gas industry to regularly check for methane pollution leaks and fix them. But ultimately to avoid catastrophic climate change we must keep oil and gas in the ground.”

The tour was part of a weekend of activity for the delegation in conjunction with the April 15 field hearing on “Oil and Gas Development: Impacts on Air Pollution and Sacred Sites.” The group also visited the nearby Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is under consideration for new drilling.

Earthworks uses the same FLIR GF320 camera that regulators and oil and gas operators nationwide use to find and document pollution at wells and facilities. Earthworks’ thermographers have also taken industry-standard training to interpret the images produced by the camera. The camera detects 20 climate and health-harming pollutants associated with oil and gas including methane, a climate pollutant 86 times worse than carbon dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds like benzene, a known carcinogen.

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