Schneider Fellow - Tribal Lands Intern

With world attention focused on both the environment and the economy, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is where policymakers and business leaders turn for win-win solutions. This leading green group, with programs from Boston to Beijing, has tripled in size over the past decade by focusing on strong science, uncommon partnerships and market-based approaches. You can be part of a vibrant workplace that welcomes diverse perspectives, talents and contributions, where innovation and a focus on results are a way of life.

EDF seeks a Fellow to work on groundbreaking analysis, policies and implementation efforts to understand and improve the air and climate impacts from oil and gas development in the intermountain west. The Fellow would work on projects in the states of Utah and New Mexico related to oil and gas methane emissions. This would include analysis of methane emissions from the Navajo Nation and the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation as well as work on methane issues across the state of New Mexico with a focus on job and economic development potential in the methane mitigation industry.

Methane is a significant contributor to climate change, responsible for approximately one quarter of the warming we are experiencing today and pound for pound more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a climate forcer in the short term. It is also the primary component of natural gas, making efforts to control its waste very cost effective and strong job creators.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the agency charged with managing resources on federal and tribal lands, finalized a new rule last year that could, if well implemented, lead to significant reductions in methane pollution. Concurrently EPA also finalized requirements that could have significant positive impacts on the problem of methane pollution and waste nationwide. These include a nationwide new source rule and a revised National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone (strengthened from 75 to 70 parts per billion). However, all of these measures are now subject to proposed delays, revisions or repeals blunting their ability to drive toward needed reductions. 

For this project the Fellow would work with EDF’s Oil and Gas Program on a range of efforts designed to better understand issues across the state of New Mexico and specific to oil and gas development on tribal lands. These efforts would be geared toward promoting the retention of federal rules designed to reduce methane pollution as well as advocating for state and tribal developed solutions. This would include research into state and tribal air codes and authorities, compiling data on air quality, oil and gas emissions and methane mitigation jobs on New Mexico and tribal lands, and working with EDF staff to promote these efforts through meetings with tribal and other local officials. 

The Fellow’s work will be focused in key theme areas including:

Waste.  Current practices by operators on tribal land are resulting in the shameful waste of an important energy resource and needed state and tribal funding.  Current estimates put this waste figure at upwards of $100 million from tribal lands nationally and from $150 - $200 million across New Mexico each year. 

Lost Revenue for Schools, Roads and Other Needs.  When operators on state and tribal lands waste gas, they are short-changing the communities and tribes that receive royalty payments from these operators.  Millions of dollars that could be helping improve schools and classrooms, highways and other transportation infrastructure are lost each year to wasteful practices such as leaks and flaring.

Clean Air and Public Health.  Pollution from oil and gas development and production on state and tribal land is impacting the health of adjacent communities.  Making such operations more efficient will reduce harmful pollution.

Compliance with Federal Ozone Standards.  States and counties that will be impacted by stricter limits on ozone will benefit from rules that require operators to reduce emissions and allows them to stay ahead of the federal regulatory curve.

Climate.  It is essential that we do all we can to minimize emission of short-term climate forcers such as methane, the primary component of natural gas, now to avert climate catastrophe.  Eliminating leaks and wasteful practices will help the United States reduce methane emissions at a meaningful scale. 

Overall goal: To develop at least one and possibly two white papers, one a job and economic development case study on the methane mitigation industry in the state of New Mexico and a second on methane emissions from Navajo Nation lands in the states of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. 

Secondary goal: To develop a blog post for EDF Energy Exchange about the fellow?s project summarizing findings for a general audience. 

The Fellow would be an integral part of EDF’s U.S. Climate and Energy Team, and would support these advocacy efforts through research, written advocacy, oral advocacy, analysis of regulation/legislation, and by attending briefings and hearings on relevant issues. S/he would also communicate with local partners and contacts and produce short written documents (memos, blogs, etc.) based on the research. Strong interest/familiarity with state (especially New Mexico) energy regulation and Native American energy issues is encouraged.

Environmental Defense Fund is an equal opportunity employer where an applicant’s qualifications are considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other basis prohibited by law.