Forum will focus on methane hot spot

The public will have a chance to learn about the most recent science regarding the hot spot

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
San Juan Gas Plant is pictured, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Bloomfield.
  • The forum will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Durango, Colorado.

FARMINGTON — A public forum organized by the Four Corners Air Quality Task Force will offer the opportunity to discuss the methane hot spot over the Four Corners region.

The forum will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and will continue from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday starting at the Durango Recreation Center, 2700 Main Ave. in Durango, Colorado.

Since a 2014 satellite image identified the hot spot, various studies have attempted to identify the source. The hot spot covers about 2,500 square miles, a region about the size of Connecticut.

Jon Goldstein, the Environmental Defense Fund director, is one of the people who will attend to learn about recent studies. Goldstein formerly served as cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. 

He said the most recent study he read identified leaking natural gas wells as a major source of methane in the atmosphere over the Four Corners region. According to NASA, natural gas is about 95 percent methane. Leaks are hard to detect without scientific instruments because the gas is odorless and invisible. 

A flaring stack is pictured Jan. 8, 2016, near Lybrook.

Next week's forum will provide updated scientific information based on different monitoring methods. Goldstein said by listening to all the presentations and piecing the information together the public will be able to get the best picture of what scientists currently believe is causing the methane hot spot.

"Each one has their own sort of facet of the issue," he said.

He explained that some of the studies have been done by flying over the region in airplanes while others are based on ground measurements.

The presentations will not only be by environmental regulators. Ashley Ager, a senior geologist with LT Environmental, will be one of the presenters. LT Environmental is an environmental and engineering firm that contacts with the oil and gas industry.

During a meeting last year, Ager said geology could be the reason the region has a large methane hot spot. She highlighted methane-rich coal-bed formations as substantial contributors to methane emissions.

LT Environmental has been monitoring gas coming out of the ground through pedestrian surveys using a methane flux meter since 2007. She will give an update on these surveys at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday during the forum.

Goldstein said the public should be concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the methane hotspot.

"It's a black eye, honestly, for the region and one that needs to be dealt with," he said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.