Over the holidays I was with my sister Carol, who was born with Down syndrome. She is beautiful. She also reminds me of important values. When in a talkative group, it is difficult for people to understand what she is saying. She is often dismissed. She then says, “Excuse me, excuse me, you are not listening to me.” Which brings us back to reality.
We all feel dismissed at times. Sometimes not being heard has grave consequences. Today, people of faith and faith leaders of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light feel that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is not listening to us. There are numerous areas of concern where this is apparent, such as protection of our national monuments and guidelines to address methane pollution.
I would like to address the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rules to curb methane gas that is wasted and contributing to climate change. Faith leaders and people of faith in New Mexico and around the country submitted thousands of comments, attended hearings, and made phone calls on many occasions over the last years supporting these common-sense guidelines. It seems to no avail.
Secretary Zinke is trying to delay and weaken rules, with an eye on repealing them. The rule updates and replaces a 37-year-old rule that does not reflect current technologies or best practices and does not effectively minimize waste. A year ago the BLM adopted this rule to reduce wasteful venting, flaring and leaking of methane (natural gas) from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal BLM public lands. Colorado already implements state rules and technology to stop waste and bring royalty money into their state. New Mexico has no state rules.
All of the major religious traditions have sacred texts instructing people to live ethically and morally. We are given instructions to care for creation and neighbor. We are instructed not to waste and to keep an orderly household. Our lands, water, air and communities in New Mexico are our Common Home, and everyone is our neighbor.
In Christian scripture the book of Luke tells the story of a widow who continues to knock at the door of a public official seeking justice. Continually ignored, the leader finally says, ” … yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice. Then she will stop wearing me out with her perpetual requests.”
So, we continue to knock on the doors of national leaders requesting, yet again, that the BLM methane pollution rules be implemented without delay. These guidelines build a future with cutting-edge technologies, field jobs, royalties for education, less asthma for our children, cleaner air, less climate change-producing methane and because it is the right thing to do.
Joan Brown is a Catholic Franciscan sister from the Rochester, Minnesota community.