Why Faith Communities Want Methane Regulation
People often think that environmentalists are more interested in protecting the polar bear than people — that environmentalists think the world would be a better place without humans. But faith communities are stepping up to the plate and demonstrating that that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, faith communities care about the environment for the sake of people and think that humans are responsible for making the world a better place.
A column published in The Daily Times last Friday couldn’t do a better job making this point clear. In the piece, authors Susan Stephenson, Executive Director of Interfaith Power & Light (IPL), and Sister Joan Brown, Executive Director of New Mexico IPL, explain why communities of faith care about methane regulations on oil and gas. Simply put, they care “because in every part of the country, people from all walks of life are seeing and suffering from the impacts of air and water contamination by methane.”
“As people of faith, IPL leaders, congregations, and members have a moral responsibility to be stewards of Creation and advocates for justice. We have become greatly concerned about the dangers posed by reckless oil and gas extraction. This practice is not only seriously jeopardizing our ability to protect the planet from catastrophic climate change, it is impacting people’s health on a daily basis.”
In the piece, the authors reference a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud that was confirmed over the Southwest United States by NASA in October. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Regulating the pollutant will not only help protect the planet from climate change, but it can also help capture harmful volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and xylene, emitted by the oil and gas industry. These pollutants trigger asthma attacks and aggravate respiratory conditions like bronchitis.
There is a clear religious call to action, as the authors point out:
“The Four Corners area where the methane cloud was observed is in the Gallup Diocese of the Catholic church. Sister Rose Marie Cecchini of the Gallup Diocese asks ‘why is the industry failing to control and offset their harmful, contaminating releases of gas, adversely affecting the local environment? We must also consider the planetary impacts this methane ‘hot spot’ is causing on our neighbors around the Earth, especially impoverished countries already suffering devastating environmental impacts from climate change. Jesus taught that Love of God and Love of our neighbor are the greatest commandments.'”
It is a love for people and a duty to God that inspires faith communities to care about methane regulations on oil and gas. “If we are to live up to what’s required of us morally and ethically, it seems clear that we need strong action,” write the article’s authors. “Voluntary standards are not enough.”
Let’s hope that the Environmental Protection Agency hears their prayers and establishes regulations under the Clean Air Act for methane emissions. In light of the overall push to establish methane regulations, the EPA would be remiss to ignore arguments from faith communities.
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