FARMINGTON — The Bureau of Land Management is seeking comments and suggestions that may help the agency create a methane emissions reduction program.

The BLM on Tuesday published in the Federal Register an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit comments on establishing a program that would allow the capture, use, sale or destruction of waste mine methane from federal coal leases and federal leases for other solid minerals.

“This mainly addresses underground coal mines,” said Bev Winston, a BLM spokeswoman, in a phone interview.

San Juan Mine in Waterflow, owned by BHP Billiton, could be affected by any proposed programs regarding methane waste from underground coal mining. But  officials say the company is willing to work with BLM to develop a new approach to methane waste.

“BLM acknowledges that the ‘mine methane waste (MMW)’ issue is a complex matter that affects miner safety, the environment and property interests of natural gas producers as well as mining,” said Norman Benally, BHP Billiton community relations coordinator, in an email.

He added San Juan Mine occupies about 18,500 acres of federal, state and private land. 

“San Juan has been actively involved in managing (mine methane waste) issues as an integral part of mine operations and will participate in the BLM process to develop a new strategy,” Benally wrote.

BLM Director Neil Kornze says the agency plans to work with local, state and industry leaders to explore methods to deal with methane emissions.

“We will work with federal, state and local officials, as well as with industry and nongovernmental organizations, to explore ways to responsibly reduce methane emissions,” he said in a press release.

Efforts to reduce methane waste are part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. In March, the administration announced a Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions that takes steps to reduce methane emissions from landfills, coal mining and agriculture and oil and gas systems.

Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the alliance plans to attend public meetings regarding methane waste reduction.

He added the steps BLM is taking show the agency recognizes its role in reducing methane emissions.

“This is confirmation BLM has a significant responsibility in managing the waste drain system throughout the oil and gas exploration and production waste,” he said. 

He added: “I think there’s going to be a lot of interests in this, and we’ll respond accordingly.”

The 60-day comment period ends on June 30.

Officials with the Farmington BLM office could not be reached for comment.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.