Recently, I testified for a public hearing on a proposed methane rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I shared that I am a Dine woman from the Navajo reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico, governance chair for United Methodist Women’s national board, and former tribal Prosecutor for the Navajo Nation. I testified on behalf of my children, grandchildren, and future generations. I testified on behalf of your children and all that we collectively hold dear.
When we were young growing up in Shiprock, there were flowers and grasses carpeting the semi-desert open range areas. Rains and snows came when they were supposed to, bringing much needed refreshing to our community and land. Now, we are in a prolonged drought. We are in a national sacrifice zone with the nation’s largest methane hotspot hovering overhead. Consequently, we have had to live with the pollution from the power plants, the mining, and the oil and gas development for many decades. The carbon and the gases including methane spewing from these developments is killing the flowers, the rains and the snows, and possibly our future.
Many of my people, relatives, and friends reside near the oil and gas drilling sites. Fracking has created heavy methane gases in the area. We are told that it’s not Methane but only “pressurized leaks,” which is code for leaks of methane.
The heavy methane clouds have affected our climate, and the other pollutants that spill out with it are impacting the health and safety of our people. Elders have suffered asthma for years and the leaked gases that form smog have made breathing worse for them, the young children play outdoors near the drilling sites, they stand the greatest health risk from dangerous pollutants because their lungs are still developing, the risk is prevalent to our pregnant women, it poses problems with their unborn babies with preterm births or congenital heart defects.
Our life sustaining Mother Earth has suffered enough, we can revive her forests, her air and our land by taking actions NOW. That is why the Biden administration proposed rule on methane is needed and past due.
Our children and grandchildren need to live in a healthy environment just as you and I have in the past decade, when there was no methane and corresponding pollutants. Methane pollution standards for oil and gas production are among the most meaningful steps we can take today to slow climate change.
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The deep importance and seriousness of these issues bring out hard emotions. I am angered at energy developers for destabilizing the life of the earth and at the politicians and bureaucrats who allow this. We all have a responsibility to care for Mother Earth, but many are not doing their fair share.
Action must be taken NOW to strengthen oil and gas regulations. There can be no more delays. Strong federal safeguards that reduce dangerous methane pollution from the oil and gas industry are essential for protecting the health and safety of our communities and our families. These standards provide significant public health benefits by curbing smog and soot-forming emissions, volatile organic compounds, hazardous air pollutants, all of which are released from oil and gas sources alongside methane.
The oil and gas industry must take responsibility for their pollution, rather than asking the public and our environment to bear the burden. The EPA must make the strongest rules possible to reduce the methane pollution and stop the release of methane. Beyond that, we must scale back on oil and gas development and transition to cleaner energy together.
As a grandmother and great grandmother, I speak for those who cannot speak and those who will come after us. The federal government is charged with the protection of our precious environment, and we call on our leaders to realize the weight of their responsibility and the words of people like me. They are offered for our future generation – my children and all children.
We must bring balance back for them.