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Reader View: Leaders must push for clean air, safe communities

By April 30, 2017Rio Arriba, Methane

By Valerie Romero and Joshajandy Hernandez | Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican
Northern New Mexico is home to many sacred things that we love about calling New Mexico home: beautiful acequias and ranch land, rich and diverse cultural history, and communities that feel like (and in some cases are) family. We live in New Mexico because to us, it’s home. Our families are rooted here, and our history can be traced back generations.
That’s why we care so much about protecting the community that we love and work to organize our community. We believe that Northern New Mexico’s people deserve to have clean air, clean water and healthy families — and we don’t want that to change.
That’s why we were pleased when the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management adopted new rules last year to cut methane pollution from the oil and gas industry. This is a big deal for our communities because we have an estimated 8,000 oil and gas wells actively producing in Rio Arriba County alone. In fact, methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is so significant that NASA even identified a methane cloud the size of Delaware hovering over New Mexico’s San Juan Basin. That’s a lot of pollution going into the air that our families breathe.
Unfortunately, these rules have been under attack by our own Gov. Susana Martinez, the Trump administration, Congress and several states. I’m proud to say that New Mexico’s Attorney General Hector Balderas has been a leader fighting to protect the methane rules and keep them intact. He is a legal intervener in lawsuits aiming to dismantle the rules at the federal level.
As a community, we often need the help of a higher authority to make sure that our voice is heard. It’s important for our decision-makers to care about what the community wants. That’s why in March, we delivered more than 700 “thank you” letters to Balderas’ office in Santa Fe. They represent New Mexicans statewide, including more than 300 in Northern New Mexico, who want to see methane pollution addressed. We thank Attorney General Balderas for his leadership.
Moving forward, we ask all of our decision-makers locally and statewide to continue pushing for strong safeguards that keep our families and communities safe — and that includes the methane rules.
Valerie Romero is the Northern New Mexico organizing contractor of Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund. Joshajandy Hernandez is a Northern New Mexico community leader.