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FARMINGTON — An eight-page report released by the Environmental Defense Fund states oil and natural gas companies waste more than a billion cubic feet of natural gas extracted from Navajo Nation lands each year, leading to a loss of $3.4 million of profits and $850,000 of royalties.

“It’s still not something that every member of the community is aware of,” said Carol Davis, coordinator and director for Diné CARE.

Diné CARE was one of several environmental advocacy groups that signed onto the report. Other groups include Grand Canyon Trust and Native American Voters Alliance. Davis said she hopes the report helps build awareness, especially among tribal leaders.

But New Mexico Oil and Gas Association spokesman Robert McEntyre said the environmental advocacy group is presenting misleading information in an attempt to get laws passed.

“The way that EDF chooses to mischaracterize these issues are blatantly misleading and false,” he said.

The report states this waste of natural gas through venting and flaring causes 13,000 tons of methane to be emitted annually, 65 percent higher than the national average. Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for Environmental Defense Fund, said the Navajo Nation has more methane emissions than the San Juan Basin at large.

These numbers were based on analyzing data the Environmental Defense Fund collected from wells in New Mexico as well as the Western Regional Air Partnership data.

“I think the size and scale of the problem is definitely eye opening,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein admits that the organization hopes the report brings about change in Navajo Nation, including increased regulation by Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency. Navajo Nation EPA did not respond to requests for comment. 

Amber Raimondo, energy program director for Grand Canyon Trust, also expressed hope that the report leads to change.

“With information can come action,” she said.

She said emissions could be reduced by regular inspection of well sites to repair leaks and restrictions on venting and flaring.

McEntyre said venting and flaring are necessary activities and not a waste of gas. He said venting is typically done when pressure builds up at the wellhead and must be relieved for safety reasons. Meanwhile, flaring is most common on new construction. McEntyre said flaring also relieves pressure.

He said venting and flaring are not only necessary for oil and gas, but are also allowed by federal and state regulations.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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