By: Juan Almanza
The first three words of the Constitution — “We the people” — affirm the government of the United States exists to serve its citizens. It’s a government in which elected officials make decisions that have in mind the best interests of all Americans, not just a few. Unfortunately, today, it seems that health, environment and prosperity are topics open to debate and often seen as a partisan challenge.
Environmental protections and regulations, like the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, address real issues affecting the health and prosperity of Americans and our environment. Americans are put at risk when elected officials fail to look past party lines and see the necessity of the rule, which seeks to curb natural gas waste by requiring oil and gas developers drilling on public lands to use the most up-to-date technology to capture wasted natural gas that is either released into the atmosphere or burnt off, and repair leaks from equipment.
Nevada is a state of incredible natural diversity. Its landscapes provide more than recreation and relaxation. These places play a vital role in our economy, our culture and our history. While the number of active facilities in Nevada is still low, the trend is pointing up — the number of acres leased for oil and gas has increased by 118 percent since 2000, and in 2015 the new acres leased was second in the nation. Furthermore, pollution isn’t contained within state boundaries and higher production from neighboring states could have an impact on Nevada — a recent NASA study discovered that oil and gas operations were largely responsible for a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over the Four Corners region.
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.
Additionally, we must not forget that the process used in creating the rule was democratic, as it was shaped by the input of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Members of Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance (PLC) attended public meetings and provided testimony about the positive effects the rule would have on our communities. More than 300,000 people commented in its favor and it was adopted by the BLM. However, the Trump administration has turned its sights on the rule and is proposing changes that would gut it — without public meetings.
Last week, PLC signed a letter, along with 15 other Latino organizations, asking the BLM to not eliminate this rule.
We all share the moral obligation to protect our land, air and water, and to ensure that the air we breathe does not harm our children and our communities.
If the rule was repealed or its effectiveness reduced, the administration would be turning its backs on these Americans who have made it clear that preventing the waste of our natural resources is a priority.
Juan Almanza is a pastor with Centro de Adoración Familiar, a faith-based alliance in Las Vegas.