A Massive Methane Cloud Has Formed in the Southwest

Devil’s Spring Ranch and the surrounding Blanco, New Mexico countryside have a big problem. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), “a huge cloud of methane … 10 times larger than the city of Chicago” looms overhead. The source? You guessed it — natural gas leaks. Scientists say these leaks stem from some 25,000 gas wells and 10,000 miles of pipelines across the San Juan Basin.

While the specter of a massive methane cloud may recall images from California’s Aliso Canyon leak, the situation in New Mexico might prove even direr, as these leaks are ongoing without any end in sight. A study from the Environmental Science & Technology journal estimates that half a million tons of methane are released into the air over the San Juan Basin each year! “That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gases emissions of almost 3 million cars,” according to the CIR.

As for the effects on the people of the region, the CIR points to studies linking gas wells to birth defects and respiratory problems, among other health concerns. One 59-year-old on a nearby Navajo Nation reservation told reporters, “I feel nausea sometimes. I feel weak.” A resident of the area, living virtually underneath the methane cloud, he provided something it seems increasingly clearer that the gas companies won’t — a look to the future. “I am concerned for my grandkids, for their health and their climate,” he said.

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