Farmington BLM office to pass on concerns to state level

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FARMINGTON — More than a half dozen people voiced concerns about a federal rule to curb methane gas emissions today at Farmington’s Bureau of Land Management field office.

Today was the last day of the public comment period on a delay proposed by the BLM regarding the methane rule, according to the Sierra Club, which organized public comment events in Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Las Cruces, Farmington and Santa Fe. The methane and waste prevention rule would curb venting, flaring and leaks of methane gas from oil and gas operations on public lands.

The rule was originally slated to be fully implemented by January 2018, but on Oct. 4, the BLM proposed to delay implementation until January 2019, citing the high cost of compliance to oil producers. A federal judge from California ordered the Department of Interior to reinstate the rule on Oct. 4.

Katie McClure, an Aztec City Commissioner who attended today’s event as a private citizen, said the environmental and financial costs of implementing the rule are “a win-win situation.”

“Besides it being environmentally not good, financially it’s not good for New Mexico, because if they get all that escaping methane, that’s like cash in the bank,” McClure said. “If it’s on the BLM (lands), of course they split it with the state, who gives it to the communities. We could use better roads and schools here.”

Daniel Tso is an heir to several allotments under BLM supervision. He said he wants to see the rule left in place and implemented because it would allow allotment owners and others in the industry to cash in on methane that is currently lost.

“For me, (delaying the rule) means that fellow allotment owners are losing income. It’s sorely needed out there, and to just let it be wasted, it’s disingenuous,” Tso said.

Tso also recognized the importance of taking advantage of opportunities to let citizens’ voices be heard.

“History has shown that if citizens don’t speak up, then the government does what it wants, and for me, I have a message that I have to speak up,” Tso said, adding “whether there’s one or there’s two (people speaking up), this has to continue.”

Richard Fields, field manager of BLM’s Farmington Field Office, said he would pass on the comments he heard and letters he received at today’s event to the state BLM office, but that the Farmington office doesn’t get much of a role in deciding what happens with the rule.

However, he said the BLM “will always listen” to citizen concerns and that he was happy to hear comments from “active and engaged citizens” about the rule.

The San Juan Citizens Alliance also hosted an event in support of implementing the rule. The rally in Durango drew approximately 100 people, according to a press release from the SJCA.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 via email at mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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