CAVU also worked with the Sierra Club in northwestern New Mexico’s San Juan Valley looking at major areas of pollution. The first flight, which included tribal leaders from the Navajo Nation, highlighted the 2,500-square mile methane “hot spot” generated from natural gas extraction zones in the area. This methane cloud, first discovered by satellite imagery taken in 2003 accounts for approximately 10 percent of the entire United States methane emissions from natural gas. Methane in small amounts is harmless but in dense quantities there are serious repercussions for both the environment and inhabitants. Today the canary, used historically in mines to signal to miners that there was too much methane and too little oxygen, is no longer singing and we must address the major issues arising as a result of this toxic plume. More than 16 national parks, wilderness areas, and their watersheds in and around the Four Corners, including the prehistoric ruins and World Heritage Site Chaco Canyon, are being affected by this powerful greenhouse gas. Venting or flaring of nitrogen gas and methane extraction zones are contaminating ground-water and construction of new drilling sites and fracking continues with little oversight.
Asthma attacks, increased respiratory problems, permanent lung damage and, in extreme cases, premature death are attributed or exacerbated by the pollution within the adjacent populations. Between 2007 and 2012 these healthcare problems have cost the public over 240 million dollars. The push for the Public Regulations Commission to approve stipulations governing the drilling is ongoing. These issues are complex and do not lend themselves to a quick fix. CAVU is committed to continue working with its partners in the Four Corners and the San Juan Valley.