On September 1, the three most notable world Christian leaders released a joint statement on the care for God’s people and planet. The three leaders were Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion. In their first statement together ever, these three leaders chose to focus on the most pressing material and spiritual challenge of our time: the ecological crisis. They bookend their statement with a line from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30, verse 19: “choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
In the face of a string of death-dealing decisions that have denied life and wellness to us and our children, we have the opportunity to choose life: for us and for our planet. Methane pollution is a death-dealing issue with profound impacts on the health of communities. The strongest possible standards to cut methane pollution are an obvious step to choosing life.
Methane pollution has a negative impact on the 30 percent of people in the U.S. who live near oil and gas production, with a disproportionate impact on low-income and communities of color. As Christians, we follow Jesus’ lead, caring first for those who society has deemed to be disposable. Under the current rules, too many communities are disposable, suffering the public health impacts that come along with methane pollution. Cutting methane pollution is a moral opportunity -- the chance to choose life for these communities.
I want to thank the EPA for using its legal authority to propose cuts in methane pollution under the Clean Air Act. Still, EPA's proposal does not go far enough to address pollution. In particular, EPA ought to ensure its new rules include the following:
- A ban on routine flaring and exclude potential loopholes that allow certain wells to forgo any regular inspections.
- The requirement for regular monitoring at smaller, leak prone wells.
- Prohibition of the practice of routine flaring at oil and gas sites.
- Channels to incorporate emission monitoring results generated by community groups.
These rules are necessary to protect our communities and our climate. The Biden administration has repeatedly committed itself to the plight of environmental and climate justice. Now is the time to live up to those commitments and supplement the EPA proposal to include tighter monitoring and enforcement of wells.
Creation Justice Ministries asks the EPA to strengthen the proposed methane rules to maximize the benefits for God’s people and planet. In other words, we are coming alongside our global religious leaders, the writers of Deuteronomy to ask, and the diverse history of Christian traditions to ask: "will you choose life, so that you and your children may live?"