Letters: Readers weigh in on issues of the day

Farmington Daily Times
Letters to the Editor

A vote for keeping it in the ground


Preventing catastrophic climate change is the defining test of our time. If we are to have a chance of avoiding extremely dangerous levels of global warming and devastating local health impacts, much of the world’s fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas — must stay in the ground, unexploited.

Seventeen lawmakers in the House of Representatives have introduced legislation that would ban new coal, oil, and gas extraction leases on public land. This is a companion bill to one introduced last fall in the Senate (Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., along with Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.) called “Keep It in the Ground Act.”

The bills are based on scientific evidence that 80 percent of coal reserves — along with 30 percent of global oil reserves and 50 percent of global gas reserves — should be left in the ground in order to avoid the most severe effects of climate disruption.

More than 40 percent of carbon emissions come from fossil fuel extraction on public lands therefore it makes sense for us to focus on public lands to stop the flow of pollution. While I applaud Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for the cessation of coal leasing on public lands I don’t think the Obama Administration has gone far enough because what we put off today will only make the cost and the loss greater for our grandchildren.

New Mexico is a polluter’s paradise. I have witnessed this firsthand.

I live on the Navajo Nation and the 24/7 extraction frenzy is harming my people today. We are already suffering from all the drilling, fracking, and burning of fossil fuels that occur on or adjacent to where we live so that people living hundreds of miles away can have cheap energy.

There are cancer clusters, an epidemic of asthma, lung disorders, and heart disease — children have trouble breathing.

This pair of bills needs prompt action to curb future harm. We need the Interior Department to include oil and gas in the leasing moratorium. We need health resources directed towards people who are living on the front lines because the damage is ongoing today.

The really perplexing part of energy destruction is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Elouise Brown


Data contradicts activists' claims about fracking, methane ‘hot spot’


National activist organizations and their local affiliated groups pulled out all the stops at a recent Bureau of Land Management hearing in Farmington to lay the blame of the so-called methane “hot spot” detected over the Four Corners region on oil and gas development.

Gwen Lachelt, a La Plata County Commissioner and founding member of anti-shale activist organization Earthworks, used the hearing on proposed venting and flaring rules to emphasize the “hot-spot” telling the BLM: “We have the reddest spot on the map in terms of having methane emissions in the United States.”

But Lachelt and the other organizations seeking to use this phenomenon to push their anti-shale development political agenda may be surprised to find that their claims are completely contradicted by recently released data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program shows that emissions from oil and gas development have been dramatically declining in the Four Corners region of New Mexico and throughout the San Juan Basin.  In fact, EPA’s new data shows that methane emissions from oil and gas development in the San Juan Basin have fallen by 32 percent.

The emission declines across the basin can also be seen by county.  EPA’s data show that in San Juan County, emissions from “Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems” have decreased by 23 percent since 2011. Both Rio Arriba and McKinley Counties have also seen emissions fall, with a 40 percent and nearly 24 percent drop in recorded emissions respectively since 2011.

The data set shows this trend playing out on a national level as well with methane emissions from both the petroleum and natural gas systems sector declining 13 percent from 2011 to 2014. Yet despite these dramatic drops in emissions, we continue to see the oil and gas industry singled out by activist organizations. That is because these groups are by-and-large opposed to energy development.

My organization, Energy In Depth, has on many occasions noted that the San Juan Basin is a large area of natural methane seepage, which is likely contributing to the “hot spot.”  According to a 1999 report from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, “Historically documented naturally occurring gas seeps throughout the San Juan Basin existed prior to oil and gas drilling operations.”

We all want to breathe clean air and live in a healthy environment. Including the estimated 25,000 residents across the San Juan Basin who earn a living working in and alongside the oil and gas industry.  But activist organizations seeking to roll this narrative into their anti-energy campaigns should take notice that EPA’s data – which show dramatic declines in methane emissions from oil and gas in the San Juan Basin – is just further evidence that attributing a “hot spot” to oil and gas development is dubious at best.

Randy Hildreth

Colorado Director of Energy In Depth