ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than 50 New Mexico faith leaders sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking the government not to change methane monitoring requirements for the oil and gas industry.
Monday was the last day to comment on the proposed changes, which would reduce or remove methane regulations on oil and gas production, transport pipelines and storage facilities.
Leaders who signed the letter represent Catholic, Episcopal, Bahá’í, Mennonite, Jewish, Disciples of Christ, Unitarian, Presbyterian, Methodist, Buddhist, Islam and other faiths in the state.
“As faith leaders working with the community, we can see how these harmful emissions affect our brothers and sisters,” said Sister Joan Brown, executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, and a Catholic Franciscan sister. “Our community members often complain of headaches from being in such close proximity to the venting equipment. We feel like our voices have been dismissed.”
The EPA has said the change would remove a duplicated rule, and save the oil and gas sector $17 million to $19 million in compliance costs each year. The agency lists methane as a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to rising global temperatures.
However, the EPA has questioned its own authority to regulate methane under the Clean Air Act.
But the faith leaders claim the government has a duty to reduce the harmful greenhouse gas.
“It is immoral to ignore health concerns affecting our communities,” the letter reads. “It is a sin to intentionally pollute the land, air and water, which is a sacred trust. Moreover, to do these actions in light of climate change, which is increased dramatically by methane emissions, speaks of a deep spiritual illness and disrespect for life. As faith leaders, we cannot stand silent.”
According to last week’s state climate report, the oil and gas sector accounts for 62% of New Mexico’s methane emissions. Nationally, that number is 31%.
Other state opponents of the rule change include the New Mexico Environment Department, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, the Center for Civic Policy, the Native American Voters Alliance, Communities in Action and Faith, Moms Clean Air Force, the Policy Solutions Institute, Earthworks, the Environmental Defense Fund, 350 New Mexico and Climate Advocates Voces Unidas.
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal. Visit reportforamerica.org to learn about the effort to place journalists in local newsrooms around the country.