Photo of methane flare in San Juan County courtesy of San Juan Citizens Alliance

By Troy Wllde, Public News Service

New Mexico may be among the states most impacted by President Barack Obama's effort to regulate and reduce methane gas emissions.

Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for the advocacy group San Juan Citizens Alliance, says NASA released a report last year that shows the Four Corners region is a hot spot, responsible for producing the largest concentration of methane seen over the United States. He says the proposed regulations should be implemented with extra focus placed on New Mexico. "We need to know why the Four Corners region is the methane hot spot of the United States, and what action is going to occur to make sure that that problem is remedied," he stresses.

Obama is proposing to reduce methane gas emissions by up to 45 percent by 2025 compared with 2012 levels. Methane, which is colorless and odorless and the main element in natural gas, is reported to be up to 80 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide.

Eisenfeld explains natural gas producers allow methane to enter the atmosphere through venting and flaring, which also costs them revenue from wasted product. He says the proposed emission standards should create enough pressure that the energy industry addresses the issue. "And it's time for them to sort of rethink the engineering, to retrofit some of these systems, and to also plan accordingly with new systems that don't leak and don't emit this dangerous methane into our environment," he states.

According to a report from Taxpayers for Common Sense, 51 percent of all natural gas intentionally released into the atmosphere on the nation's public lands occurs in New Mexico. The report also found that since 2006, more than $380 million worth of natural gas was allowed to burn off or be used by energy companies on public lands owned by Americans.

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New Mexico at center of Obama’s climate-change proposal