COMMENTARY: Dozens of western faith leaders and socially responsible investment firms recently joined together in a letter calling on oil and gas lobby groups to drop their opposition to Bureau of Land Management rules, which aim to reduce natural gas waste on public lands.
For faithful citizens, support of the BLM rules is a matter of stewardship of creation and care for our brothers, sisters and future generations. Each year, $330 million worth of natural gas is wasted from venting, flaring, and leaks from equipment on public and tribal lands throughout the West. Furthermore, no royalties are assessed on the wasted gas, which amounts to tens of millions dollars more in lost revenue for Western States.
Many Western states are facing budget crises, too. Oil and gas revenue-based states like New Mexico, Wyoming, and North Dakota have cut vital social programs, decreased public education funding, and proposed tax hikes to fill their budget deficits after oil and gas commodity prices plunged over the past year.
One solution is to look to the tens of millions of dollars in available revenue by simply reducing natural gas waste on public lands.
It is our moral responsibility and duty to cultivate and conserve the gifts of God’s creation in a sustainable way – including natural gas. We must ensure our future generations can continue to benefit from God’s abundant gifts while protecting health.
Our letter comes on the heels of a ground-breaking NASA study, which found oil and gas facilities were a significant contributor of emissions that have resulted in a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over the Four Corners region. Of the 250 individual sources NASA evaluated, just 10 percent were responsible for more than 50 percent of all the observed emissions in the San Juan Basin. Most of these were oil and gas facilities.
The good news is this is an easy and cheap problem to solve. We have low-cost technology that cuts natural gas waste for oil and gas operators for pennies on the dollar. That’s why we are encouraging the oil and gas lobby groups to join us in supporting the BLM natural gas waste rule, rather than working against those of us who live in the West.
The Right Reverend David E. Bailey of Episcopal Bishop for the Navajoland Area Mission has underscored the importance of acting to cut natural gas waste and pollution from tribal lands.
“We all have a moral obligation to be responsible in protecting the land, air, and water, and that includes oil and gas companies that operate on tribal lands in New Mexico,” said Rv. Bailey. “As people, God gifts us with human intelligence and wisdom to create a world that can be shared by future generations. This includes common sense rules to cut methane waste from oil and gas operations and help ensure that we are good stewards of our natural resources and the health of the Navajo people.”
We encourage western oil and gas stakeholders to work with us and support the BLM’s natural gas waste rule. It’s in the interest of preserving God’s gift of clean air, better stewardship of our public tax dollars, and ensuring the long-term health of both the oil and gas industry and our Western economies and tribal communities.
Sister Joan Brown is executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light.