As a Deacon in the Episcopal Church, it is my ministry to bring the Church to the world. I have lived this out through ministry with prisoners and refugees, as well as by participating in our church garden initiative. Recently, at the request of my Bishop, I got to try advocacy ministry in Washington, DC. I made the trip from Nevada to Washington, DC to advocate for the energy stewardship values of my Christian faith. Specifically, I was asking Congress to uphold the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule.
Anyone who cares about responsible fiscal stewardship, conserving the gifts of God’s creation, community health, and our climate should know natural gas waste is a moral issue of national concern. The BLM Rule requires oil and gas operations on public and tribal lands to conserve methane, which is the primary ingredient in natural gas. The Rule requires companies to use proven technologies to plug leaks and capture excess methane to sell it, instead of venting and flaring it irretrievably into the atmosphere. The Senate is considering using its authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to irreversibly destroy the Rule, and prevent any substantially similar Rule from being issued by the BLM. Rolling back this Rule would be a disaster for our country.
While in DC, I met with the offices of Senator Heller and Senator Cortez Masto. I also dropped some educational materials by Rep. Amodei’s office. Two days after my visit, I was disappointed that my Representative Amodei was one of the members of Congress who contributed to the 20-vote margin decision by the House to use the CRA to gut the BLM Rule.
Now that the House has voted, it is up to the Senate to uphold the Rule. In our meeting, Senator Cortez Masto indicated she shares the energy values I discussed with her in our meeting, and Senator Heller’s staff member also seemed very open to the case for responsible energy stewardship. I am hoping and praying both Senators will give thoughtful consideration to what is best for our country.
As a Christian, I believe that “The Earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it” (Psalms 24:1). It all belongs to God, it is immoral to exploit and waste it. All of creation is a gift from God, including the methane that gives us natural gas. Natural gas is an irreplaceable fossil fuel resource. When a limited natural resource like methane is wasted until it becomes scarce, it is the poorest among us who will suffer the most, and be forced to go without.
Because it all belongs to God, we are called to justly share the gifts of God’s creation. U.S. public lands belong to all of us, and the gifts therein should enrich us all. Oil and gas operations on public lands pay taxes on the natural gas they sell, and our country needs the money. State budgets for schools, roads, and libraries are imperiled by the potential gutting of this Rule. Also, the federal treasury will lose millions in projected income.
The well-known Beatitude “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9), also has implications for our energy values. Energy independence is a matter of national security. Until we can find other viable energy sources, we need to ensure that domestic natural gas resources last for future generations. We can only maintain energy independence if we steward what we have wisely, rather than recklessly allow it to leak, vent, and disappear into thin air.
Throughout the Bible, there is a moral imperative to care for the most vulnerable. When those who are living closest to the sources of methane pollution get harmed, it is religious communities that respond: with pastoral care, health care, and, unfortunately, with funerals we must conduct for community members we lose to preventable asthma and cancer.
Lastly, climate change is being felt first and worst by the most vulnerable among us. In the West, we are struggling with drought and changing weather patterns. Being a part of the Episcopal Church connects me to other countries like Haiti, where people feel climate impacts even worse. While reducing our nation’s climate impact may not be the Rule’s primary goal, it is an important effect. We have a moral responsibility to cut dangerous methane gas emissions.
For these many reasons, it is my hope and prayer that our Nevada Senators will vote to uphold the BLM Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule.
Deacon Mike Margerum does ministry with the community of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Sparks, Nevada.