The group Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO) strongly opposes the administration’s new proposed rule to rescind most of the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste Rule, which protects public health, the environment, and saves taxpayers millions. This rule – which took six years to develop with a variety of stakeholder input – prevents more than $330 million worth of natural gas from being wasted on public and tribal lands by venting, flaring, and leaking natural gas into the air. Revenue from the royalties, if the methane was marketed instead of wasted, would go to schools, first-responders and communities.
When we extract oil and gas from our lands, we should not waste those precious natural resources. This goes against our Hispanic heritage of conservation and our ancestral values of respecting what the Earth provides for us. This new proposal would strike the one rule that holds oil and gas companies accountable for wasted natural gas; protects the health of our communities; and provides funding for essential services.
President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are putting our health at risk. Latinos are disproportionately affected by the health impacts of oil and gas development. In fact, over 23 million Latinos live in areas that violate the federal air pollution standards for ozone, according to a recent report by the National Hispanic Medical Association and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Methane release can trigger life-threatening asthma attacks, worsen respiratory conditions, and cause cancer. The BLM Methane Waste Rule mitigates these negative consequences.
The bipartisan Conservation in the West poll recently released by Colorado College found that more than 80 percent of Western voters who live and work near public lands support this rule, and more than two-thirds of voters across the country want to keep the rule in place. (See graphic below.)
In addition, a report commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund found that New Mexico ranks number 1 in lost natural gas, for an annual loss of an estimated $100 million. That means New Mexico is missing out on over $6 million in royalties every year. That could pay the salary of 125 extra teachers in a state where a third of the students don’t graduate from high school.
For centuries, Hispanics have been stewards of the earth. We support environmental and conservation protections at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in the United States. We have a strong cultural connection to the land and we believe in not taking more than what is needed.
A simple solution is already in place. By implementing the BLM Methane Waste Rule that was supposed to take effect this year, we can cut pollution, eliminate waste, improve public health, and increase community revenue. Plus, oil and gas developers can increase efficiency and profits. And in neighboring Colorado, whose state methane rule was the model for the federal rule, the requirement to capture the emissions and find and fix leaks has spurred a growing industry.
We urge the Administration not to rescind the BLM Methane Waste Rule. It makes sense for our economy, for our health, and for the protection of our natural resources. The enormous amount of time and resources that went into developing this rule represents the strength and beauty of our democracy. We urge you not to violate the will of the people by rescinding this important policy.