Almost 45,000 pro-life Christians have submitted comments to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to weaken methane pollution standards on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Why have we become involved? It’s simple: we want to protect the unborn, who are disproportionately impacted by the pollution Secretary Zinke’s actions will increase if he moves forward with his plan.
As pro-life evangelicals, we have a special concern for the unborn. We want children to be born healthy and unhindered by the ravages of pollution even before they take their first breath. Venting and flaring spew out smog precursors, as well as other toxic pollutants and cancer-causing agents like benzene. Studies have shown that smog, VOCs and air toxins have a disproportionate impact upon life in the womb; for those near production sites the emissions have been linked to birth defects, pre-term births and low-birth-weight babies, who are at greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD and asthma, among other things. More broadly, 84 percent of published medical studies describe health impacts from natural gas infrastructure.
That’s why we oppose Secretary Zinke’s weakening of the BLM’s methane reduction rule. If it is allowed to do its job it will reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring, venting and leaks from oil and gas production operations on public and Indian lands. And we are not alone; 81 percent of individuals living in western states agree with reducing venting and flaring on public lands, per a January 2017 survey by Colorado College.
A year ago this week, we experienced one of the only true victories for taxpayers and clean air of the Trump administration.
In its rush to repeal regulations from the Obama administration, Congress sought to utilize the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which was designed to prevent leaks and collect royalties on wasted methane gas from federal lands. After easily passing in the House, the Senate was on the verge of approving it, as well, when in a moment of tremendous leadership, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) bucked their colleagues and joined every Democratic senator in opposing the efforts of special interests to gut the rule.
This was a huge moment. Had the CRA been successful, not only would the rule not have gone into effect, but the BLM would have been prohibited from promulgating similar rules in the future, allowing industry to continue wasteful practices that are within its power to prevent — at taxpayers’ expense due to lost royalties that ought to be collected.
As a retired city manager I know that New Mexico’s municipalities can always use more revenue for important needs. A big source of that funding is the taxes and royalties assessed on oil and gas development. Then why is the Trump administration pushing a proposal that will – by its own assessment – mean more waste and less revenue for New Mexico?
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has released a proposal to gut oil and gas methane waste rules that will allow for the waste of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars and cost Americans over $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution. This rule will leave New Mexico families less funding for our schools and communities, wasted energy, and more smog pollution threatening the health of our children and seniors. It’s a bad deal. That’s probably why 74 percent of New Mexicans opposed this rollback, according to a recent Colorado College Poll.
New Mexicans should be worried that the state’s polluted air is a threat to their health. According to the American Lung Association, seven counties with 60 percent of New Mexico’s population must endure Code Orange days whereby children and adults with asthma should stay inside. But why would Eddy and San Juan counties experience nearly as many orange days on smog as Bernalillo County that has lots of people and cars?
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in North Dakota recently addressing the North Dakota Republican Convention.
Conspicuously, during his 14-minute speech, he avoided mentioning his day job as land manager of America’s vast and spectacular national public lands, including the energy development that happens on those lands. He also didn’t mention his work to repeal guidelines that ought to be saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by preventing the waste of the public’s natural gas resources and supporting good-paying jobs in the methane mitigation industry.
The Trump administration’s recent decision to roll back the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane Waste Prevention Rule is startling. The rescission of this common-sense regulation is wasteful, misguided and harmful to America’s economy, and economies throughout the West. Overturning this rule now could be disastrous, resulting in more government waste and the loss of good-paying jobs in a growing industry. It would jeopardize the emerging American methane mitigation industry by introducing a tremendous amount of uncertainty at precisely the time when employers around the country are hiring thousands of workers to handle the growing demand in states like North Dakota.
Here in Colorado, we value our public lands, open spaces, recreational opportunities, and the conservation of our natural resources. So why then are energy companies setting fire to our precious public resources and revenues?
As President Barack Obama wrapped up his second term in office, the federal government put in place a common-sense rule requiring oil and gas companies developing on public lands to capture methane emissions and fix leaks in their wells and pipelines to prevent the loss of this potent gas. The rule served two important purposes: prevent the needless waste of American energy and ensure a fair return on royalties when publicly-owned resources are developed. And perhaps more importantly, the rule would help cut pollution and protect the air we all breathe.
Some energy-producing states such as Colorado already have rules to control methane natural gas waste. The problem? Air pollution doesn’t stop at the border. Without a nationwide rule requiring gas be consistently captured rather than flared, vented, or leaked, no state’s air is really safe and consumers in every state could end up paying the price — financially and otherwise.