Constant gas flares lighting up the sky over New Mexico’s oil fields may soon be a scene from the past, under new rules proposed by the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to reduce methane waste in the oil and gas industry.

The Oil Conservation Commission began two weeks of remotely held online hearings for the proposed rules on Monday with a full day of public comment.

Oil and gas operators would need to meet a 98% gas capture rate by the end of 2026 under the proposed rule.

But some commenters, including attorney Doug Meiklejohn with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said nearly six years is too much time.

“The industry has known about the problem of excess methane emissions in New Mexico for many years,” Meiklejohn said. “We believe the compliance period should be no more than three years.”

The rule would ban routine venting and flaring of natural gas, which contains methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Operators flare excess gas to relieve pressure, or because it is not economical to capture and transport the gas.

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