A strong BLM meth­ane rule pro­tects our chil­dren

Weak­ened stan­dards could lead to an in­crease in birth de­fects, pre-term births, other prob­lems

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - BY THE REV. MITCHELL HESCOX PRES­I­DENT OF THE EVAN­GEL­I­CAL EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL NET­WORK mitch@cre­ation­care.org

Al­most 45,000 pro-life Chris­tians have sub­mit­ted com­ments to In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke not to weaken meth­ane pol­lu­tion stan­dards on Bu­reau of Land Man­age­ment (BLM) lands. Why have we be­come in­volved? It’s sim­ple: we want to pro­tect the un­born, who are dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacted by the pol­lu­tion Sec­re­tary Zinke’s ac­tions will in­crease if he moves for­ward with his plan.

As pro-life evan­gel­i­cals, we have a spe­cial con­cern for the un­born. We want chil­dren to be born healthy and un­hin­dered by the rav­ages of pol­lu­tion even be­fore they take their first breath. Vent­ing and flar­ing spew out smog pre­cur­sors, as well as other toxic pol­lu­tants and can­cer-caus­ing agents like ben­zene. Stud­ies have shown that smog, VOCs and air tox­ins have a dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact upon life in the womb; for those near pro­duc­tion sites the emis­sions have been linked to birth de­fects, pre-term births and low-birth­weight ba­bies, who are at greater risk of in­fant mor­tal­ity, ADHD and asthma, among other things. More broadly, 84 per­cent of pub­lished med­i­cal stud­ies de­scribe health im­pacts from nat­u­ral gas in­fra­struc­ture.

That’s why we op­pose Sec­re­tary Zinke’s weak­en­ing of the BLM’s meth­ane re­duc­tion rule. If it is al­lowed to do its job it will re­duce the waste of nat­u­ral gas from flar­ing, vent­ing and leaks from oil and gas pro­duc­tion op­er­a­tions on pub­lic and In­dian lands. And we are not alone; 81 per­cent of in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing in west­ern states agree with re­duc­ing vent­ing and flar­ing on pub­lic lands, per a Jan­uary 2017 sur­vey by Colorado Col­lege.

In ad­di­tion to pro­tect­ing the un­born, as evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians we want our coun­try’s poli­cies to re­flect good re­source and fi­nan­cial stew­ard­ship. The leaks, vent­ing and flar­ing of such a valu­able na­tional re­source are the op­po­site of good stew­ard­ship. A re­cent re­port from Tax­pay­ers for Com­mon Sense found that in 2016 over $100 mil­lion in roy­al­ties to the gov­ern­ment were lost. This money could be used to help fund ed­u­ca­tion, or in­fra­struc­ture, or for tax re­bates — just about any­thing rather than let it dis­ap­pear in the air.

Sec­re­tary Zinke’s weak­en­ing of the BLM meth­ane stan­dard could cost jobs and de­lay the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ex­cit­ing new tech­nolo­gies. Al­ready there are 500 com­pa­nies that de­velop, man­u­fac­ture and sell meth­ane-con­trol tech­nolo­gies in the United States to­day. Putting peo­ple to work and cre­at­ing new tech­nolo­gies is a much bet­ter deal than the over $1 bil­lion worth of meth­ane wasted this decade.

For ex­am­ple, one such meth­ane-con­trol so­lu­tion is of­fered by Ari­zona-based ZHRO Power LLC, which has de­signed a gas re­form­ing tech­nol­ogy that breaks down larger hy­dro­car­bon mol­e­cules in the as­so­ci­ated gas stream into meth­ane. This so­lu­tion helps cre­ate a fuel that can be used in stan­dard off-the-shelf nat­u­ral gas en­gine gen­er­a­tors. In ef­fect, harm­ful smog is turned into some­thing pos­i­tive. Each unit de­ployed re­duces car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by 9,000 met­ric tons per year over vent­ing and re­duces ben­zene and haz­ardous chem­i­cals from these prac­tices.

Our goals are to de­fend our chil­dren, make a bet­ter Amer­ica, save tax dol­lars, cre­ate jobs, em­power in­no­va­tion, and be good stew­ards of all God has cre­ated. A strong BLM meth­ane stan­dard helps us achieve these goals. Clearly, mod­ern­iz­ing the ex­ist­ing, more-than-30-year-old oil and gas pro­duc­tion rules and bring­ing them in line with tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in the in­dus­try is what’s right for us all. As such, we ask Sec­re­tary Zinke to do no harm and leave the BLM meth­ane stan­dard alone. It’s that sim­ple.

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