Three Ways to Conserve Public Lands for Future Generations
1. Regulate venting and flaring on public lands
HECHO is concerned about the amount of methane (the major component of natural gas) being released into the atmosphere by oil and gas development. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is reviewing a new rule that could require royalties on vented and flared gas, as well as require recapture technologies that could reduce methane releases as much as 40%. That recaptured methane could then be processed and sold. The BLM needs to implement the rule quickly. In the last year alone, applications for permits to vent and flare natural gas have increased threefold mostly in New Mexico and North Dakota.
HECHO has been weighing in on the venting and flaring issue, in particular around the hot spot above the Four Corners area. In 2014, we were featured on Telemundo New Mexico explaining the issue to Spanish-speaking audiences, and we also wrote about how the waste that is occurring in the oil fields goes against a way of life for Latinos. In 2015, the Santa Fe New Mexican published our op-ed ahead of a science forum in Farmington, NM.
We hope that soon the BLM will release a draft methane rule proposing how to regulate venting and flaring. This is our opportunity to participate in a public process to comment on the draft rule as well as to weigh in with our decision makers about the benefits of such a rule for the future of communities across the southwest.
2. Support safe, responsible hydraulic fracturing activities on public and tribal lands
HECHO works to ensure that there is balance between energy development and protection of our water, air and land when it comes to fracking. All oil and gas development produces contaminated fluids that, if not disposed of properly, pollute our watersheds and the air we breathe. HECHO applauds the U.S. Department of Interior’s leadership on balancing energy development and conservation of water supplies and habitat through a new Fracking Rule.
While we all use oil and gas, development of those resources cannot come at the expense of clean water and air for our communities. The Fracking Rule introduces smart, safe, and responsible standards to mitigate these concerns. Among the many improvements that HECHO supports is a new requirement to store contaminated drilling fluids in enclosed steel tanks, rather than in open pits, which will help to honor one of the core values of HECHO-- to conserve our shared resources for our enjoyment today and for the enjoyment of future generations.
3. Keep public lands in public hands
For generations, Latino families from western states have enjoyed our shared public lands. Many of us were not born into wealth, but by virtue of being in America, we’ve been included in an inheritance that goes far beyond money. We are part owners of our federal public lands, and we have a right to these precious resources.
We also share the responsibility not only of owning these lands, but caring for them too. These lands are where we hunt and fish, where we gather our fire wood, where we take our families on camping trips, where we hike, bike, and get away from civilization to connect with our roots and recharge our souls.
Many Latino communities are situated near National Forests. Our centuries-old traditions of sharing water resources through networks of acequias in these forests depends on access to these public lands. These fresh water sources have been managed for thousands of years by parciantes, or water rights holders, far predating the establishment of most states in the west.
The movement to place federal land in the hands of the states only serves to open further possibilities for that land to be overrun by development, or even privatized and removed from America’s commons. Federal lands are a national heritage, and we will work to protect these lands for the enjoyment of future generations. We believe in keeping public lands in public hands, and oppose any bill that includes provisions for the transfer of public lands to the states.