Sixteen Latino organizations working in the western United States jointly sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management on April 23rd, opposing any revisions to the BLM’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which curbs natural gas waste by requiring existing oil and gas operations on public lands to use the most up-to-date technology to capture wasted natural gas and repair leaks from equipment.
“As a Latina — and a taxpayer — it is deeply disappointing to see the Administration continue to undo policies designed to protect our wallets and communities, and to have them do so without holding a single public hearing,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “The BLM rule was designed to ensure that lost revenue would be put to work in our neighborhoods in the form of improved infrastructure or funding for schools. With this attempt to revise the rule, even after the Senate voted to keep it intact last year, the Administration has turned its back on taxpayers and Latino communities across the West.”
Latinos are disproportionately affected by the health impacts of oil and gas development, — in fact 1.81 million Latinos live within a half mile of existing facilities. The National Hispanic Medical Association and LULAC report, Latino Communities at Risk: The Impact of Air Pollution from the Oil and Gas Industry, found that many Latino communities face an elevated risk of cancer due to toxic air emissions from oil and gas development. When natural gas, primarily in the form of methane, is released into the air, so too are harmful pollutants such as benzene, which are linked to cancer, and other ozone-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen emphysema.
“Our children are our most valuable resource; if the Administration chooses to revise or reject the methane waste rule-they’re making a dangerous bet against the health and well-being of America’s future,” said Dr. Elena Rios, President of the National Hispanic Medical Association. “We know that toxic air pollution from oil and gas operations knows no borders. Latinos across this country, especially children and the elderly, face numerous health risks associated with air pollution from the oil and gas industry; the BLM rule is necessary to reign in this harmful pollution.”
The process taken to draft the BLM Methane Rule was transparent and fair; over 300,000 people commented in favor of the rule, which followed the request of the Government Accountability Office and DOI Office of Inspector General to revise outdated rules governing methane collection. Additionally, a clear message was sent last year when Congress rejected the Congressional Review Act Resolution, which was designed to overturn the rule.
Public support for curbing methane emissions has always been high, but has grown dramatically. In 2014, the American Lung Association found that 63 percent of registered voters backed standards for methane emissions. In 2017, a bipartisan pair of pollsters found that 81 percent of voters in western states were supportive of adopting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane waste rule.
“We have a moral obligation to protect our cherished outdoor heritage, clean up our air, and ensure that what we breathe doesn’t harm our children and communities,” said Juan Almanza, a representative of Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance from Las Vegas, NV. “There is no excuse to not modernize oil and gas development, especially when our health and safety hangs in the balance.”