Letters: Readers weigh in on issues of the day
Ignorance and irresponsibility rule
Long ago there was a cliché which stated “Ignorance of the law is no excuse."
This meant that as a citizen, you were obligated to learn the rules, regulations, and laws of the community you live in. To acquire a driver’s license, you had to learn the rules and laws of the road.
Long ago there was a president named Harry Truman who had a sign on his desk that stated “The buck stops here.” This was his statement that he was personally responsible and accountable for everything to do with the government of the United States including all its employees and agents.
When a person accepts a very high level position in our government, such as secretary of state, it is incumbent on that person to learn all the rules, procedures and laws that apply to that position. No person in such a position is above the law, but fully responsible to it.
Evidently, none of these principles are required in government today.
You are no longer obligated to observe the rules, regulations nor the laws of our nation. Our national character has changed enormously over the last half century so that we are no longer the same country. Idealists deny this, but it is nonetheless fact.
In November it will again be time to “Choose Your Loser”. Be prepared. You lose.
Fugitive methane represents lost revenue
In a recently released report, the Center for American Progress found that ConocoPhillips, one of the biggest oil and gas operators in the San Juan Basin, is the top polluter in the nation in terms of release of methane from its facilities.
Further, wells in the San Juan Basin have the highest per well methane emissions in the country.
If methane is escaping from these facilities, so are a number of associated chemicals, including benzene (a known carcinogen), toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene. Many of these wells are developing federally owned minerals, meaning that the escaping methane is revenue that should be going to public uses.
Some interesting facts from the CAP report include:
• In 2014, ConocoPhillips topped the list of companies with the most methane pollution in the onshore oil and gas production sector.
• The San Juan Basin ranked No. 1 in the nation for methane pollution per well.
• The San Juan Basin ranked third in overall emissions at 5.2 million metric tons.
• The San Juan Basin ranked No. 1 in per-well emissions at 227 metric tons per well.
• Even though ConocoPhillips reduced its methane pollution between 2013 and 2014, the company still released 4.65 million metric tons — 33 percent more methane than the next-highest-ranking company.
Not only is methane being wasted, it’s affecting public health. San Juan County’s rates of respiratory disease are higher than the New Mexico average and it’s reasonable to suspect that those higher rates are at least partly due to the area’s status as a methane hotspot.
Gas production is vital to the economic survival of the San Juan basin, but so is good health. Operators in northwest New Mexico, as good neighbors, should be doing their best to prevent unnecessary escape of methane and associated chemicals.
Oil and gas production creates jobs, supports government, and in many ways makes for a better community. But producers can and should do more to reduce waste and protect public health.
It makes sense to revise coal rules
For the first time in more than three decades, the Interior Department is taking a look at how its federal coal program does and doesn’t work.
That makes a world of sense. We’re talking about our public lands, where New Mexicans hunt, fish, hike, camp, recreate, graze their livestock and get their water. About 41 percent of the country’s produced coal comes from public and tribal lands.
It’s only right that taxpayers and tribal governments get a fair return on removal of nonrenewable resources.
Various reports and audits have shown that due to a lack of transparency into the appraisal of the coal’s value and a lack of competitive bids, Americans aren’t getting their full due on federally managed coal.
That means state and local governments are losing out on revenue to help finance our schools, road improvements and other public projects.
A fair return would help provide funds to restore fish and wildlife habitat and minimize the impacts on wildlife, hunting and fishing opportunities and recreation.
That’s especially important as the amount of mined land needing to be reclaimed continues to grow and taxpayers face the prospect of picking up the tab for clean-up costs that struggling and bankrupt coal companies can’t cover.