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Trump Administration Attacks on Methane Safeguards Threaten New Mexico Families, Add to Pollution

Four Corners Power Plant. Photo courtesy of EcoFlight and San Juan Citizens Alliance

  Commentary: Today, Moms Clean Air Force released a new report: “Face to Face with Oil and Gas: Voices from the Front Lines of Oil and Gas Pollution”. The report highlights the scope and diversity of the public health impacts that oil and gas pollution have on the well-being of families across the country, in both urban and rural areas, living near and far from oil and gas operations. It is unconscionable that our federal government wants to weaken or revoke safeguards that protect our children from this industrial pollution.

Earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed changes to gut the common sense BLM methane rule, a widely-supported safeguard aimed at preventing the oil and gas industry from spewing harmful methane pollution into the air and wasting a valuable resource by requiring companies to regularly check for and repair leaking equipment.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, is also working to dismantle similar oil and gas pollution safeguards Americans rely on known as the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that curb methane emissions and toxic pollution from 36,000 recently built or updated oil and gas wells across the country. The derailment of these essential protections would enable the oil and gas industry to continue releasing millions of tons of methane and other volatile organic compounds into the air our families breathe, posing a serious threat to public health especially in areas like Southeastern New Mexico’s Permian Basin that is seeing a dramatic increase in drilling activity.

Without these federal standards in place, it will now be up to New Mexico’s leaders to step up and stop the waste in the oil and gas industry -- and protect the air New Mexicans breathe.

Today’s report, “Face to Face with Oil and Gas: Voices from the Front Lines of Oil and Gas Pollution,” released by Moms Clean Air Force, shares the real life experiences of seven impacted women from six states.

“We can’t give up,” said Shirley ‘Sug’ McNall, a grandmother and clean air advocate from Aztec, New Mexico. “I realize that we need jobs, energy, and income but our health, and the health of our kids is on the line. It is our responsibility to protect our communities, and most importantly our children, from dangerous oil and gas pollution instead of selling them out to corporate polluters.”

Together with the voices of the women featured in the report, this information clearly illustrates the wide ranging public health impacts of oil and gas pollution on families living in urban and rural communities, both near and far from oil and gas operations.


“There are far too many communities around the country dealing with the health impacts of pollution from oil and gas operations,” said Katie Huffling, a nurse and Executive Director of Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments.

“Both urban and rural areas are feeling these impacts. This pollution adds to the health burden of communities already disproportionately impacted by asthma, cancer, and other major health problems. It is vital that strong national safeguards against methane and other dangerous oil and gas pollution be strengthened, to protect the broad range of Americans from all backgrounds who are facing the health burden of oil and gas pollution today.”

The report shines a spotlight on how families from across the country experience oil and gas air pollution.

“As a parent, it’s terrifying to know your child’s health is out of your control yet parents across New Mexico and the country are facing health impacts every day due to pollution from the oil and gas industry,” said Alexandra Merlino a New Mexico Field Representative for Moms Clean Air Force.

“We hope this report puts faces to the issue and encourages our leaders to take action to protect the health of our families. The Trump administration needs to make the right decisions and put the health of our kids ahead of industry.”

Report Highlights:

  • 12.4 million Americans live within a half mile of an active oil or gas well, compressor, or processor.

  • 1.8 million Latinos live within a half mile of an oil and gas facility.

  • More than one million African Americans live with a half mile of an oil and gas facility.

  • 2.9 million children attend schools half a mile or less from active wells, compressors, and processors.

  • American children suffer 750,000 summertime asthma attacks each year due to ground level ozone, or smog, caused by oil and gas pollution.

  • Because air pollution can travel long distances, these asthma attacks can happen dozens, even hundreds, of miles from oil and gas operations.

  • This pollution adds to the burden of African American and Latino communities already facing disproportionate pollution exposures.

The full report can be read here (https://www.momscleanairforce.org/face-to-face-oil-gas).

It builds on the findings from the following reports and resources released over the last few years:


Moms Clean Air Force is a community of over one million moms—and dads—working together to fight air pollution, including the urgent crisis of our changing climate. For more information, go to http://www.momscleanairforce.org/ or follow us on Twitter @CleanAirMoms, Instagram @cleanairmoms, or Facebook.