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Trump says he is not buying U.S. intelligence as he meets with Putin. Also on the rundown: as harvest nears farmers speak out on tariffs; immigrant advocates say families should not be kept in cages; and a call for a deeper dive to the Lake Erie algae troubles.

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Faith Leaders Ask Trade Groups to Support Methane Waste Rule

Faith and conservation leaders are asking trade groups to drop their opposition to a proposed federal rule on methane waste from flaring, venting and leaks at oil and gas facilities. (Environmental Defense Fund)
Faith and conservation leaders are asking trade groups to drop their opposition to a proposed federal rule on methane waste from flaring, venting and leaks at oil and gas facilities. (Environmental Defense Fund)
August 25, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. — Dozens of conservation leaders, faith leaders and socially responsible investors across the West released a letter on Wednesday urging trade groups, such as the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Western Energy Alliance, to drop their opposition to the Obama administration's proposed methane waste rule.

The Bureau of Land Management released a draft rule in January that would force oil and gas companies to limit the amount of methane they burn off, vent or leak into the atmosphere on federal or tribal land and on private land where the BLM holds mineral rights. Sister Joan Brown, executive director at the advocacy group, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, was among those who signed the letter.

"The citizens of New Mexico are losing out on royalties but it's also causing pollution that is not good for health, nor is it good for the environment,” Brown said. "So we see it as an ethical, moral issue."

If the captured gas were sold on the market, New Mexico would gain $50 million a year in royalties. The feds have also set a goal of reducing methane waste by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade. The BLM has closed the public comment period on this rule and is expected to issue a final version in late 2016.

Brown pointed to a 2014 NASA study showing a large methane cloud sitting over New Mexico. A follow-up report looked to see if the methane emissions could be naturally occurring.

"They found that, no, most of it was because the industry was not capturing this or was releasing it and wasting it,” Brown said.

That same report found that more than half of the methane emissions in the San Juan Basin were caused by only 10 percent of oil and gas facilities surveyed.

The technology exists to capture the excess methane, but the oil and gas industry has said that it is too expensive. Several other states, including nearby Colorado, already have rules in place to minimize natural gas waste.


Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NM