Evangelicals Oppose Efforts To Delay And Weaken Blm Methane Regulations

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A Statement by the Rev. Mitch Hescox
President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network

October 6, 2017 – Fixing natural gas leaks on public lands is pro-life and good stewardship. That is why we oppose the Trump Administration’s proposal released today to delay and then weaken the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) regulation to reduce methane pollution on public lands under BLM’s jurisdiction. This regulation or rule was released in November 2016.

The Administration had already stayed compliance back in June. But just yesterday a federal court ruled that action illegal, and ordered compliance with the BLM rule. Today’s effort by the Administration takes a different tack than their effort in June. It is a formal proposal to delay compliance until it is able to rewrite and weaken the rule.

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.

That’s why nearly 92,000 pro-life Christians from 21 affected states want strong action to reduce pollution from leaks in our natural gas infrastructure and from venting and flaring. These things spew out smog precursors, as well as other toxic pollutants and cancer-causing agents like benzene. Studies have shown that smog, VOCs, and air toxics have a disproportionate impact upon life in the womb; for those near production sites the emissions have been linked to birth defects and preterm births.

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 is the opposite of good stewardship. In a 2014 study the Western Values Project estimated that “American taxpayers could conservatively lose almost $800 million over the next decade due to natural gas being flared or vented from federal lands.” 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.

For these reasons we want strong action to reduce this pollution and support the BLM’s rule released in November 2016. We are grateful for the court’s ruling that the rule must be enforced and urge all parties involved to comply without delay, despite the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to do so.

1-For recent studies on health impacts, including for the unborn, see: Jake Hays and Seth B. C. Shonkoff, “Toward an Understanding of the Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development: A Categorical Assessment of the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature, 2009-2015, PLoS ONE, 11 (4), April 20, 2016; Shaina L. Stacy et al., “Perinatal Outcomes and Unconventional Natural Gas Operations in Southwest Pennsylvania,” PLoS ONE 10 (6), June 3, 2015; Gregg P. Macey, et al., “Air Concentrations of Volatile Compounds Near Oil and Gas Production: a Community-based Exploratory Study,” Environmental Health, 32 (2014).
2- Western Values Project, Up In Flames: Taxpayers Left Out in the Cold as Publicly Owned Natural Gas is Carelessly Wasted (May 2014): p. 2.

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