At a time when the oil and gas industry contends it is reducing methane emissions, the issue has become a topic of debate during this year's midterm election in New Mexico.

While the environmental community and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democratic candidate for governor, have raised the issue of the Trump administration rolling back rules on methane emissions, federal data shows that the industry has been cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Rep. Steve Pearce, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, voted last year to overturn Obama-era methane restrictions. Grisham supports a statewide methane rule.

New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) officials think concerns are misplaced because the industry has been working to lower emissions.

"New rules would seem to be redundant," NMOGA spokesman Robert McEntyre told NGI. "Industry has always made it’s first priority to cut methane emissions." The latest data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows methane emissions in New Mexico's two basins, the Permian and the San Juan, "have dropped as production has grown substantially,” he said.

McEntyre said emissions is not a top issue among many other statewide concerns, such as education, crime and infrastructure.

Earlier this month, EPA released data showing nearly 728,000 metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) had been reduced in the San Juan Basin, while 100,000 mt of CO2e had been cut in the Permian. "Falling methane emissions prove that we can increase production and protect the environment at the same time -- it doesn't have to be a choice," NMOGA Executive Director Ryan Flynn said at the time the EPA data was released.

Between 2016 and 2017, the oil and gas industry managed to reduce emissions while New Mexico oil production climbed 25 million bbl and natural gas production increased by 42 Bcf, NMOGA said.