By Al Martinez
Nevada is a state of incredible natural diversity. The diverse landscapes of our state provide a lot more than just recreation and relaxation. These special places play a vital role in our economy, our culture and our history. Growing up in a family that camped, fished, hunted and hiked, I was raised to take from the land only what was needed and to not waste our natural resources. To do otherwise doesn’t make sense, and it is our moral obligation to ensure that future generations will inherit this outdoor heritage.
However, this type of natural resource waste is happening across the country with methane, the primary component of natural gas. When methane is released into the air through industry practices such as venting, burning off through flaring or loss through leaky equipment, oil and gas companies are wasting resources that belong to the taxpayers of this country.
That’s why Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO) and the Hispanic Access Foundation have launched a partnership asking Hispanic residents across Nevada to join our West-wide effort to cut natural gas waste and air pollution. We can only protect taxpayers and the health of all Westerners if we work together, join hands across state lines, and call on all Western leaders to put an end to natural gas waste.
We are also calling upon Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Dean Heller to hold oil and gas companies accountable by supporting a recently adopted rule that will cut natural gas waste on federal and tribal lands.
The deliberate waste of methane through venting and flaring happens during the oil and gas production process throughout our nation every day. Emitting methane is dangerous. Methane release can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks, worsen respiratory conditions and cause cancer, which disproportionately affects the Hispanic community. What’s troublesome is that a significant level of these emissions are being generated in operations conducted on our public and tribal lands.
In addition to the health risks posed to our families, these reckless activities are affecting our wallets. Oil and gas companies are wasting more than $330 million worth of natural gas on federal and tribal lands each year. In fact, enough natural gas is being wasted to supply a city the size of Chicago for a year. Furthermore, Nevadans (and all American taxpayers) could lose out on $800 million over the next decade as a result of venting and flaring natural gas in a business-as-usual scenario, even if operations happen in other states. Half of those revenues go to reclamation and the general treasury. The other half of those revenues would go to energy-producing states to help fund education, road, bridges and more.
The rule will also spur innovation and create jobs. More than 75 companies are now active in methane mitigation, with more than 500 locations across 46 states. This includes Nevada, which is home to companies that sell equipment and provide services to cut methane emissions within the oil and gas industry. In other words, the rule will help put our energy resources to good use. In Nevada, oil and gas development remains speculative but is on the horizon. Currently, oil and gas companies have leased about 2.3 million acres for energy development, and while only a few dozen leases are producing, we can expect to see a sharp uptick in areas around Nevada’s Elko Bureau of Land Management field office, just like we did when oil prices surged in 2008.
The BLM methane waste rule is an opportunity to help ensure that when energy prices do recover, oil and gas development will be accomplished responsibly and that there will be a fair return to taxpayers in Nevada, and throughout the U.S. In addition, the waste rule also will help to decrease health-related problems associated with methane release, which is vital to the health of Hispanic communities, and all communities throughout the nation.
Al Martinez is a program supervisor at Clark County Parks and Recreation, chairman of the Latino Leadership Council and an advisory board member for HECHO.