Printed in the Albuquerque Journal
By Pastor James Therrien / Co-director, Lybrook Community Ministries, Counselor, N.M.
In 2014, NASA spotted a methane cloud over the San Juan Valley so large you can see it from outer space. That hot spot retains the title of highest concentration of methane gas found anywhere in the United States. In 2015, consulting firm ICF International ranked New Mexico as No. 1 in methane waste and calculated the cost of our waste at $27 million. The 570,000 tons of methane lost through leaking, venting and flaring each year are enough to heat every home in our state.
These numbers are clear, and the implications are frightening.
As a Christian, I stand for stewardship over waste. Our God-given natural resources should be used to our benefit, not to our harm, and methane waste truly harms everyone.
Not only is methane a potent greenhouse gas, but it is also a toxic compound that imperils public health and threatens national security. National security means energy security, and wasting natural gas reduces the amount of energy available for households in New Mexico and across the United States.
Methane pollution is an odd problem, though; while it poses a serious threat to the entire nation, it can be solved with simple, inexpensive measures. This makes methane pollution the kind of problem that goes unsolved only when those profiting from it are not required to pay for its negative consequences. We, the people of New Mexico, cannot allow the polluters to freely profit any longer.
We have made our voices heard before, and we have seen justice done. When public pressure mounted to restore oil and gas industries to their rightful roles as national assets rather than national risks, the Obama administration introduced the Oil and Gas Waste Prevention Rule of 2016 – a set of forward-thinking regulations to reduce natural gas waste, prevent harmful air pollution and provide taxpayers a fair return on public resources.
The 2016 rule was a victory for all. Just as methane waste harms everyone, methane capture benefits all of New Mexico. The $27 million that could be added to the state’s revenue could increase enrollment of children in pre-K programs by 50 percent, meaning both a brighter future and cleaner air for our youth.
Now, the Trump administration is trying to take back this public boon. In February of this year, the Bureau of Land Management published a proposal to replace the 2016 rule and restore the wasteful status quo – diverting millions of dollars from taxpayers and releasing millions of tons of air pollution into the atmosphere. We cannot in good conscience stand by and allow our state and nation to be so gravely harmed. We are a united West on this front, with over 81 percent of Westerners wanting the methane rule to stay in place.
I call upon you all as Christians and citizens to keep our government accountable, our industries beneficial, and our public safe. It is the privilege and the duty of every New Mexican to make their voices heard.