As a Christian pastor, I stand with a growing movement of faith leaders who are concerned with issues like air pollution and climate change. It is our duty to stand up for the gift of this Earth that God has bestowed upon us as well as for the welfare of the communities around oil and gas facilities and the workers inside them.
It is the responsibility of each of us to protect the planet with every small action that affects it. This is why I’m grateful for the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent steps to regulate methane and other dangerous emissions from oil and gas facilities across the country.
The venting and flaring of methane at oil and gas facilities is regulated by the EPA, which recently released a proposal that would cut methane and other harmful pollutants from new and existing oil and gas operations. The proposal will also reduce methane waste from leaks at roughly one million oil and gas wells currently operating across the country. While a great start, these rules must go further to protect frontline communities like mine.
The EPA must follow in the footsteps of New Mexico and ban this wasteful, routine flaring and venting, because emissions do not know state or national borders, and those of us in the Permian Basin are affected by a lack of regulation from other states. The banning of routine venting and flaring will mean the health of the workers, who are caught in the middle of trying to make a living while working in polluted circumstances, as well as our national parks and neighborhoods, (which) will be more protected from pollution.
Life is precarious, and nature is, too. In thinking only about economics, we can become so shortsighted that we can end up poisoning our workers, neighbors and the very air we breathe. That’s one of the many reasons I promote love and concern for all our world and for our children, and why I partner with organizations that protect our public lands, like the National Parks Conservation Association. Together, we work to make sure our national parks and surrounding communities are protected from air pollution and the effects of climate change.
New Mexico’s national parks and heritage sites, like Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Chaco and Bandelier, are the perfect symbol of God’s creation and human history in this world. They are sacred gifts we want to protect from the damages of air pollution and methane flares for generations to come. How we cherish our national parks is indicative of what we believe in and where we are going as a country; uplifting and protecting them sets a standard for the rest of the world to rise up to.
God’s creation is our inheritance on this Earth, and we must look past our own noses and economic interests to protect our gift of nature. New Mexico has already dedicated itself to preserving our public lands by abolishing methane flares; we must take that dedication further by not only supporting the EPA proposal, but also by pushing the EPA and Congress to continue to make our air, public lands and conditions for our facility workers safe. In doing so, we glorify God in our care for the creation with which we have all been entrusted.