At the end of last year, New Mexico was in the news for a particularly ominous reason. NASA detected a Delaware-sized plume, or cloud, of methane hovering above our state.
It was determined that this cloud was a result of methane leaks from the tens of thousands of gas wells in the northern portion of New Mexico.
Methane leaks are colorless and you cannot smell them, but with special cameras and satellites, the damage being done becomes apparent.
Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas that has 25 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
With the domestic oil and gas industry growing rapidly, methane pollution will become more frequent and plumes will become more commonplace unless we implement safeguards now.
This pollution has detrimental impacts on our health.
By controlling methane leaks, we are guaranteeing smog-forming and cancer-causing pollutants are no longer spewing into the air that communities near these oil and gas operations are breathing in. This is vital to ensuring public health and the health of our communities.
Beyond the health of our neighbors, methane pollution is significantly impacting the health of our planet.
We know that we are at a critical moment in history where we must act to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Methane leaks are contributing to the relentless over-heating of our planet caused by human activity and we must act to address the health and safety of our home.
I cannot remain silent while this unnecessary pollution continues to spill into our air because my faith calls me to speak out.
In the book of Genesis, we learn that God created the world and everything in it. God has also called us to be stewards of creation and to responsibly take care of it.
It should be humbling that we have been given such a holy task!
We also are called to care for our neighbors, especially those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
Pope Francis underscored this powerfully in his encyclical “Laudato Si.”
Climate change and pollution disproportionately affects these communities through disparate health impacts, a lack of resources to respond to increased natural disasters, or hunger, migration and poverty due to drought, famine and disease.
The task at hand is daunting, but vital.
Scientific research tells us that we are heading down a dangerous path if we do not begin to address the root causes of climate change now. One important piece that will have global implications while also improving the lives of New Mexicans is to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
We must look beyond carbon and begin to actively address other harmful greenhouse gas emissions like methane.
Let’s keep New Mexico enchanted by embracing methane regulations for the benefit of our brothers and sisters here and around the world.