Ty Markham and Marc Coles-Ritchie: Utah representatives should support methane regulation

Environmental groups and oil companies agree that limits should be restored.

(Al Grillo | AP file photo) In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. The International Energy Agency says oil and gas companies aren't doing enough to reduce the release of methane, a potent source of planet-heating emissions, that is seeping out of pipelines and production plants.

Earth Day every spring draws our attention to Utah’s unique landscapes, air quality, watersheds and the magnificence of the creation and all God’s creatures. We celebrate the natural world and its life-sustaining processes.

Now, with a new administration in the White House, we see a renewed opportunity to focus on an aspect of our air quality that has been neglected during the previous four years — federal methane safeguards.

Emissions from oil and gas facilities include methane and toxic chemicals like benzene, which are linked to cancer, and smog-forming pollutants that cause respiratory damage. The Trump administration rolled back rules that limited methane emissions. That created uncertainty and left our communities vulnerable to the poor air quality that results from the release of this potent greenhouse gas.

Fortunately, leaders in Washington recently introduced a joint Congressional Review Act resolution to reinstate methane emission safeguards to protect communities in Utah and across the West. We are pleased that the Senate voted to restore limits on methane emissions. Now we urge the House to also vote for this regulation of methane emissions.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are known for their abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and other substances thought to be unhealthy. It reflects our core belief that the body is a sacred temple for the spirit, and that our well-being is derived from good health practices. We are also called upon to be good stewards of the earth and care for the health and wellbeing of our communities.

There is nothing more fundamental to life than the air we breathe, and we must keep this most precious resource clean and pure. By reducing the methane pollution we act as good stewards of the Earth. It is reassuring to see leaders in Washington working to do just that, and we hope our own members of the House will vote to reinstate rules that would immediately reduce methane emissions. We urge Utah Reps. John Curtis, Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart to support the resolution.

Support for reducing oil and gas methane emissions is widespread and bipartisan. Leading oil and gas companies, including Shell and BP, and the American Petroleum Institute have expressed support for federal policies to reduce methane emissions. And Shell, Equinor, BP, and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America have released statements in support of using the Congressional Review Act to rescind the problematic policies adopted by the previous administration.

Not only would the Congressional Review Act resolution lead to healthier air, it would also restore oversight of transmission and storage compressor stations adjacent to underground storage facilities, which are very prevalent in Utah, and it will restore the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to address emissions at new and existing underground gas storage which can become major sources of emissions.

Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance calls on members of Congress, in particular those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, to demonstrate their good stewardship and protect the health of their constituents by supporting this Congressional Review Act resolution to reinstate sensible methane pollution standards. This is an important step toward preserving the divine gifts of God’s creation for ourselves and future generations.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Ty Markham is a co-founder of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance. She was photographed in Salt Lake City, Wednesday September 9, 2015.

Ty Markham, Torrey, is a founding board member of Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance.

Marc Coles-Ritchie

Marc Coles-Ritchie, Salt Lake City, is board chair of Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance.