A group of Native American and faith leaders delivered a letter April 19 signed by more than 500 clergy and faith leaders from 40 states to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke opposing weakening the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. April 23 was the deadline for public comment on the proposal.
Methane that is leaked, vented, and flared on our shared public lands creates public health hazards, alters our climate, and wastes valuable natural gas. This letter was signed in response to the Trump administration’s recent suspension of the critical environmental safeguard.
Lisa DeVille, citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation located on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota, traveled to Washington to make her community’s concerns known. She said: “The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is surrounded by nearly 1,000 oil and gas wells that make the unceasing extraction of the resources beneath our land hard to escape. The air smells like rotten eggs, the noise disrupts our lives and the gas flares make our night skies look like bright summer days.”
Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, president of Interfaith Power & Light said, “It is important to remember that frontline communities suffer the worst impacts of methane pollution, and people of faith are called to care for the most vulnerable in our society. At the same time, we know that this standard will not only address public health issues, but create good paying jobs in communities that need them, along with royalties that will fund schools and local services.”
Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide; it traps up to 80 times more heat over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide. Venting, flaring and leaking methane from oil and gas operations is the second largest industrial contributor to climate change in the United States.
The United Church of Christ was another national organization that signed onto the letter. Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, of the UCC’s Justice & Witness Ministries, joined the delivery contingent and stated, “As a person of faith, my sacred text and belief in our Creator compels me to urge our government to care for our Earth. This [methane] rule protects both God’s Creation and the health of our children.”
The letter reads, in part:
“As people of faith, we have a moral obligation to care for our land, water and air and to protect the health of our communities, and especially the children and future generations. This rule will keep an estimated 175,000 tons of methane emissions a year out of our air.
“Old Testament scripture states that before us have been set choices for life and death, ‘Choose life that you and your children might live.’ We appeal to you as an ethical leader to choose life by implementing the BLM methane rules as proposed.”