Almost 45,000 pro-life Christians have submitted comments to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke not to weaken methane pollution standards on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Why have we become involved? It’s simple: we want to protect the unborn, who are disproportionately impacted by the pollution Secretary Zinke’s actions will increase if he moves forward with his plan.
As pro-life evangelicals, we have a special concern for the unborn. We want children to be born healthy and unhindered by the ravages of pollution even before they take their first breath. Venting and flaring spew out smog precursors, as well as other toxic pollutants and cancer-causing agents like benzene. Studies have shown that smog, VOCs and air toxins have a disproportionate impact upon life in the womb; for those near production sites the emissions have been linked to birth defects, pre-term births and low-birth-weight babies, who are at greater risk of infant mortality, ADHD and asthma, among other things. More broadly, 84 percent of published medical studies describe health impacts from natural gas infrastructure.
That’s why we oppose Secretary Zinke’s weakening of the BLM’s methane reduction rule. If it is allowed to do its job it will reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring, venting and leaks from oil and gas production operations on public and Indian lands. And we are not alone; 81 percent of individuals living in western states agree with reducing venting and flaring on public lands, per a January 2017 survey by Colorado College.
In addition to protecting the unborn, as evangelical Christians we want our country’s policies to reflect good resource and financial stewardship. The leaks, venting and flaring of such a valuable national resource are the opposite of good stewardship. A recent report from Taxpayers for Common Sense found that in 2016 over $100 million in royalties to the government were lost. This money could be used to help fund education, or infrastructure, or for tax rebates – just about anything rather than let it disappear in the air.
Secretary Zinke’s weakening of the BLM methane standard could cost jobs and delay the implementation of exciting new technologies. Already there are 500 companies that develop, manufacture and sell methane-control technologies in the United States today. Putting people to work and creating new technologies is a much better deal than the over $1 billion worth of methane wasted this decade.
For example, one such methane-control solution is offered by Arizona-based ZHRO Power LLC, which has designed a gas reforming technology that breaks down larger hydrocarbon molecules in the associated gas stream into methane. This solution helps create a fuel that can be used in standard off-the-shelf natural gas engine generators. In effect, harmful smog is turned into something positive. Each unit deployed reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 9,000 metric tons per year over venting and reduces benzene and hazardous chemicals from these practices.
Our goals are to defend our children, make a better America, save tax dollars, create jobs, empower innovation, and be good stewards of all God has created. A strong BLM methane standard helps us achieve these goals. Clearly, modernizing the existing, more-than-30-year-old oil and gas production rules and bringing them in line with technological advances in the industry is what’s right for us all. As such, we ask Secretary Zinke to do no harm and leave the BLM methane standard alone. It’s that simple.