- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - So many people turned up at a public meeting about methane leak regulations in New Mexico that the fire marshal ordered everyone to move to a larger space.

Bureau of Land Management officials held the Tuesday event to provide information about the agency’s push to update 30-year-old methane rules, reported The Daily Times in Farmington (http://bit.ly/1R7lpRU). Supporters of the change say stricter regulations will help protect the environment from harmful methane leaks.

Dozens of people in favor of the BLM rule showed up wearing red T-shirts that said, “Methane pollution: our planet at risk.” But the majority of the 600 people who attended the meeting opposed the rule change, including several oilfield workers and Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts.

“I’ll get right to the point,” said Roberts, who was the first to address the BLM officials. “In my opinion, the implementation of these proposed rules will kill revenue to state and federal governments, they will kill jobs at the local level in those communities that rely on the extractive industries for their economic health and it will result in the waste of precious natural resources.”

The proposed rule change is necessary because oil and gas producers need to do a better job of capturing natural gas, according to Amanda Leiter, BLM deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management.

Between 2009 and 2014, enough methane leaked from federal and Indian leases to supply 5 million American households for a year, Leiter said.

“So that’s a waste. That’s not efficient operations,” she said. “And the aim of the rule is to try to reduce that waste, to try to ensure that more of that natural gas is captured and sold and used in a productive way.”

Roberts, however, called the rule ironic, saying it would cause companies to plug a significant number of natural gas well in the San Juan Basin.

“That is waste in and of itself,” he told the BLM officials.

Roberts and the three other mayors in San Juan County published a joint letter in November opposing the proposed BLM regulations.

Camilla Feibelman of the Sierra Club argued that the oil and gas industry needs to transition away from fossil fuels or face irrelevance, comparing the industry’s plight to that of Kodak.

“Don’t let profits divide and conquer us,” Feibelman said. “We have to remember the story of Kodak. Kodak, the grand company of photography, couldn’t get its head around the fact that times were changing, that people wanted digital cameras. And guess what? They went out of business.”

The BLM will accept public comments on the proposed rule until April 8.

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com

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