New Mexico should be a leader in methane mitigation
As someone who attended the methane meeting on Monday, July 29, hosted by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) in Farmington, I wanted to offer a few reactions.
First, I want to thank these agencies and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for coming to this area to allow stakeholders to voice their opinions as the administration develops New Mexico’s methane reduction rules. As someone who represents New Mexico farmers and ranchers on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, I have witnessed the administration repeatedly cast a wide net including agriculture and the oil and gas industry when these policies are being developed.
While I understand the real economic concerns in this area, I am glad to report that methane regulations are proving successful just north of here. Our neighboring state, Colorado, has some of the most restrictive methane pollution regulations in the country and has a booming oil and gas industry.
New Mexico has a methane waste and pollution problem. It costs our schools millions of dollars in revenue, it ruins our air and is one of the main contributors to climate change. I have read that venting, flaring and leaks waste $275 million of natural gas each year. This computes to over $40 million per year in royalty and tax revenue that would fund public education.
Innovation and cutting methane emissions will create jobs as industry leaders find innovative ways to fix the problem. Instead of resisting these regulations let New Mexico be the leader in this industry and set an example for other states wishing to adopt similar rules.
Moral obligation to address methane mitigation
My faith tradition calls for ethical and moral actions to address and to protect Our Common Home, to care for the common good and to protect the health, welfare and human rights of our communities. That is why I spoke out for the first time at a state hearing in Farmington last week to call for stronger rules to reduce methane pollution in New Mexico.
Strong rules are vital for the community that I serve and for the brothers and sisters served by the Episcopal Church in New Mexico and around the world. Strong rules are one way to address methane that harms health and God’s creation when it is polluted into our air. Methane (released into the atmosphere) is also wasted methane that costs millions of dollars in lost revenue to our schools, hospitals, and public infrastructure.
Methane also escalates the climate warming we experience. There are many implications from floods, to droughts, to life threatening heat waves; all of which affect certain parts of our state more than others. For example, extreme heat poses severe health risks. This threat is especially acute for those without access to electricity for air conditioning or refrigeration, including 40 percent of residents in Navajo Nation.
Human and economic factors must be weighed when making public policy. An “integral ecology” is one held by various faith traditions. It takes the form of the Golden Rule in the Judeo-Christian tradition: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). In the Buddhist tradition, love and compassion are extended equally toward all living beings without bias or restriction.
Strong methane regulations would honor the deep spiritual traditions and worldview of my Native brothers and sisters as well as the ethical and moral call to act responsibly by people of faith all over our state.
Rev. Michael Sells
Priest of All Saints Episcopal Chapel