American faith communities have long since been a major component of climate action on both a national and local level. From the Midwest-Dust Bowl that buried an entire culture in the 1930s, to NASA’s recent discovery of a methane cloud blanketing the American Southwest, religious folk have often been the first to respond.
So it came as no surprise when Blessed Tomorrow partners, Susan Stephenson, Executive Director of Interfaith Power & Light (IPL), and Sister Joan Brown, Executive Director of New Mexico IPL, penned a call to action in the Daily Times, urging everyone to take initiative in irradicating the methane.
Where, however, does this concern for even the most overlooked of climate topics originate? It’s easy: stewardship. God’s gifting of all has in-turn left religious persons feeling committed to protecting His creation and all that dwell within. Stewardship runs deep, as it calls on us to sacrifice and speak up for God’s numinous development no matter how big or small.
Interfaith Power & Light, a national network of 15,000 faith communities, is calling for urgent regulation of methane from the nation's oil and gas development. Why do clergy and faith communities care about this seemingly obscure regulatory issue? 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.
Methane is a greenhouse gas over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release. The oil and gas sector is growing rapidly and it is projected that methane emissions could increase more than 5 percent over the next five years in the absence of federal regulations.
Earlier this month NASA confirmed a giant methane cloud was over the Southwest. The epicenter is the Four Corners region — and the 2,500-square-mile cloud apparently pre-dates the fracking boom. Clearly, urgent action is needed.
The Environmental Protection Agency has authority under the Clean Air Act to develop methane regulations for the oil and gas sector. Directly regulating methane will also help capture harmful volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants such as benzene and xylene, emitted by the oil and gas industry, pollution that triggers asthma attacks and aggravates respiratory conditions like bronchitis.