By Camilla Feibelman, Rio Grande Chapter director

You’ve read it here more than once. Oil and gas operations throughout the state are wasting natural gas they extract from our public lands.

Methane — the key component of natural gas that also happens to be a powerful greenhouse gas — is leaked, vented or flared throughout the oil and gas drilling, transport and storage processes. As part of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Obama Administration passed rules at the EPA and BLM that would slow this waste, protect health, reduce climate change and brought more royalties into the state treasury.

That these methane rules (against all odds) are still in effect is thanks to you. The Trump Administration has done its best to turn these rules back but so far has failed, in the courts and in Congress. But sadly, anti-environment forces in the administration have resorted to the route that is slower but is more likely to succeed.

In March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed to gut the Bureau of Land Management rules that would reduce methane pollution on public lands. So we once again ask you to stand up for these rules so important to our climate, our health, our state income and our public lands. The agency has given the public until April 23 to comment. You can do that by clicking here

Late last year, when the comment period on Zinke’s proposed delay of the methane rule closed, the BLM received more than 150,000 comments — the vast majority in opposition to delaying the safeguards. That’s in addition to the hundreds of thousands of comments that citizens submitted in support of the original rule.

We sometimes hear that this administration is in chaos or is too disorganized to do too much harm. But the sad reality is that our environmental protections are being systematically dismantled. When we desperately need to take significant action to reduce climate pollution before its too late, Zinke’s revisions are a huge step backward.

The Zinke proposal would result in the same amount of climate damage as 8.3 million cars driven over 10 years. Not to mention the fact that oil and gas operations also release dangerous toxins such as benzene and other ozone-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema.

More methane waste means more air pollution that will harm families, especially those living closest to oil and gas development. So we hope you’ll join us in the continuing fight to protect New Mexico, its people and its public lands by commenting here before April 23.