The BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule seeks to reduce the wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and Tribal lands, and by doing so will generate profits and royalties for businesses and federal, state, and tribal governments. Reducing the wasteful release of methane gas on federal land is good for the public health and wallets of Americans.
For Latinos living in states like Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, where the BLM manages a significant amount of land, this rule is a step forward in protecting the health and well-being of their families from the colorless, odorless, invisible methane gas, which when combined with other harmful gases creates smog. Latinos are disportionately burdened by the health effects of oil and gas development, in many communities we can see more cases of respiratory conditions like asthma. These health burdens can lead to economic burdens by an increase of days of missed work and school due to sickness and asthma attacks. A 2016 report by the National Hispanic Medical Association and Clean Air Task Force found that “more than 1.81 million Latinos live within a half mile of existing oil and gas facilities and the number is growing every year”.
The BLM rule would work to reduce the flaring and leaks of methane gas from existing methane production wells on the over 100,000 federal onshore oil and gas wells reducing harmful air pollution across the nation.
In addition to being SMART public health policy, the BLM rule is economically smart as it seeks to provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, tribes, and states. Natural gas that is taken from public lands belongs to Americans, and the wasteful practices of oil and gas companies like unrepaired leaks and flaring come at the expense of American taxpayers. Rectifying these wasteful practices by capturing this natural gas has the potential to power a city the size of Chicago and its sale would generate $300 million dollars a year in royalties paid to state, federal and tribal governments - funds that could help improve our schools, infrastructure, etc.
Faced with these realities, it is not surprising that 76% of Latino voters from across 7 Western states stated that they would “CONTINUE” the policy to “require oil and gas producers who operate on national public lands to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas” in the bipartisan 2017 Conservation in the West Poll administered by the Colorado College: The Rockies Project.
Additionally, we must not forget that the process used in creating the rule was democratic, as it was shaped by the input of thousands of Americans. Everyday leaders, like our very own Por La Creacion: Faith Based Alliance, attended public meetings providing testimony about the positive effects the rule would have on their communities. In addition, PLC leaders met with their elected officials and then Obama Administration officials to ensure that their voices and concerns were taken into account in the final version of the rule.
Our congressional members in both the House and Senate must take into consideration the short and long term implications of disapproving the BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule under the Congressional Review Act. If Congress votes to disapprove the rule, it would in turn be disapproving the time, energy, efforts, and wants of these Americans who have made it clear that they approve of such action to prevent the waste of our natural resources.
It would be allowing oil and gas to continue to waste public resources and endanger public health now and for generations to come, as the Congressional Review Act does not allow any rule that has been disapproved to be “reissued in substantially the same form” and any new rules that are substantially the same may not be issued unless authorized by law in the future.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.”
We can not afford to continue to be wasteful of our natural resources if doing such means endangering our environment and the health of future generations, thus Congress should allow for the continuance of the BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.