This article originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It can be accessed here.
Right now the administration is considering delay of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Rule, which protects public health, the environment, and saves taxpayers millions. This rule – which took six years to develop with a variety of stakeholder input – prevents more than $330 million worth of natural gas from being wasted on public and tribal lands from venting, flaring and leaking.
Extracting oil and gas in itself isn’t problematic, but what is a problem is wasting precious natural resources. This goes against our Hispanic heritage of conservation and our ancestral values of respecting what the Earth provides for us. These lands and natural resources have sustained us for generations, and we should be protecting them for generations to come.
Natural gas losses on federal lands in 2013 had a value of $27 million in taxpayer royalties – revenue that could be used for schools, desperately needed infrastructure repairs and more. A report commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund found New Mexico ranks number one in lost natural gas, with an estimated value of $100 million each year. That means New Mexico is missing out on over $6 million in royalties every year. That could pay the salaries of around 125 extra teachers in a state where a third of the students don’t graduate from high school. It’s a senseless waste when there are so many places the money could go to improve our communities.
Methane release can also trigger life-threatening asthma attacks, worsen respiratory conditions and cause cancer, which disproportionally affect Hispanic communities. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Hispanics are among those facing the greatest risk of exposure to dangerous air pollutants, and are three times more likely to die from asthma than any other racial or ethnic group. The density of development in the Four Corners area alone is about one well for every two people; with the country’s largest concentration of methane gas.
For centuries, Hispanics have been stewards of the Earth. We support environmental and conservation protections at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in the United States. We have a strong cultural connection to the land, and we believe in not taking more than what is needed.
A simple solution is already in place. By not delaying the BLM Methane Waste Rule, we can cut pollution, eliminate waste, improve public health and increase community revenue. Plus, oil and gas developers can increase efficiency and profits.
The BLM conducted a deliberate and inclusive process to develop the waste rule, with extensive input from every stakeholder including: oil and gas companies, workers, trade associations, state regulators, tribal leaders, local governments, members of Congress, taxpayer advocates, technology providers, environmental advocates and private citizens. All in all, they received about 330,000 comments on the proposed rule before issuing the final version last November. In addition, five counties in New Mexico passed local resolutions in support of this rule, including Santa Fe, San Miguel, Mora, Bernalillo and Rio Arriba counties.
Today, Nov. 6, is the deadline to weigh in. We urge the administration not to delay the BLM Methane Waste Rule. It makes sense for our economy, for our health and for the protection of our natural resources. The enormous amount of time and resources that went into developing this rule represents the strength and beauty of our democracy.
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