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Editorial: Science should remain in methane-fix drivers’ seat

Who knew collaboration could result in, well, results?

According to a Carlsbad Current-Argus story in the Journal last month, New Mexico’s Methane Advisory Panel – led by state officials but including members whose backgrounds range from the Chevron Corporation to the Sierra Club – has recently put forth a report outlining a number of proposals to help curb methane emissions generated by the energy industry. By all appearances, the diverse group of stakeholders did its best to take a long, hard, honest look at what can be – and what needs to be – done.

Recommendations include:

⋄ Producers switching to low- or no-bleed pneumatic controllers.

⋄ Increasing leak detection and monitoring equipment.

⋄ Finding ways to reduce – not eliminate – natural gas venting and flaring.

Public comment is being accepted through Feb. 20, and public meetings are planned after that.

Some preliminary appreciation is due to the leaders of the New Mexico Environment Department and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Division who set up the advisory panel in such a thoughtful, comprehensive way. It will be important to continue to listen as public comment comes in over the next several weeks.

At the end of the day, though, any regulations or next steps should be weighted heavily in favor of what the science says. The high-stakes heads-vs.-tails world of energy and environment tend to prompt high emotions, and leaders will doubtlessly hear compelling personal stories and impassioned pleas for what needs to happen. But emotions aren’t what’s needed here; facts, figures and scientifically gathered evidence that will stand the test of the boom cycle are essential.

In the meantime, the Methane Advisory Panel shows collaboration can power achievable solutions.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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