Latinos in the West have a huge stake in the outcome of whether or not the Senate votes to rollback new rules to cut methane pollution and natural gas waste from oil and gas operations on public and tribal lands through a Congressional Review Act.
The health of our communities and opportunities for economic growth by ensuring oil and gas development happens responsibly hangs in the balance as Senators decide whether to put the oil and gas lobby ahead of the American people.
Moreover, when methane emissions occur, they are often accompanied by the release of cancer-causing toxins like benzene and ozone-forming pollutants. Ozone pollution is a major contributor to the 153,000 childhood asthma attacks that happen each year in Latino communities and worsens pulmonary diseases like emphysema.
Those living closest to oil and gas facilities are most at risk to health impacts. Our report with the Clean Air Task Force and National Hispanic Medical Association found that 1.81 million Latinos live within a half-mile of existing oil and gas operations, exposing our families and communities to environmental dangers.
According to the most current scientific data, a half-mile is too close, and this problem is only exacerbated as development moves further and further into urban and suburban areas.
The good news is that we have solutions. The tools that oil and gas companies use to cut methane pollution also reduce toxic emissions and ozone-forming pollutants.
With the safety of families at risk, it’s no wonder that Latinos overwhelmingly support action to cut methane waste. A bipartisan pair of pollsters found that that a full 76 percent of Latinos in western states want the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) methane waste rule to move forward.
Latino groups such as LULAC, the Hispanic Accesses Foundation, Mi Familia Vota, Chispa, the Southwest Organizing Project, Por la Creación Faith-Based Alliance, and dozens of Latino elected officials across the West have all weighed-in on the importance of this issue.
Other stakeholders such as recreation and small businesses, landowners, methane mitigation companies, tribal leaders from the Three Affiliated Tribes and Navajo Nation, veterans, and more have joined us to demand environmental justice for our families.
That’s why we are disappointed to see messaging opposing the BLM natural gas waste rule. As the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the country, we know this is not the view of the larger Latino community and those that claim this as the consensus view need to reassess their position.
Rules to address waste do not harm jobs and stifle the growth of the oil and gas industry. Colorado was the first state in the nation to adopt rules to cut methane emissions from oil and gas operations. In the three years since these rules have taken effect, oil and gas production has increased and companies have announced plans to increase energy investments in the state this coming year.
Plus, new businesses in methane mitigation are growing in Colorado and across the U.S. helping to ensure that oil and gas development is done more responsibly without the negative impacts to our public health.
Clean air is good business for everyone, and cutting methane waste and pollution is good for our health and good for business. We hope that our Senators listen to voice of their Latinos constituents – and stakeholders across the West – by rejecting a rollback to the BLM methane waste rule.
Brent Wilkes is the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which advocates for the political, economic and educational rights of Hispanic Americas. Follow him on Twitter @BrentWilkes. Follow LULAC on Twitter @LULAC
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.