President James Blassingame goes to Washington DCSubmitted on: March 25, 2017
On January 31, 2017, I made the trip from South Carolina to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the energy stewardship values of the South Carolina Christian Action Council and the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina. Specifically, I was asking Congress to uphold the Bureau of Land Management Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule.
Because our state is far away from most BLM lands, this BLM Rule has not gotten much publicity here in South Carolina. However, anyone who cares about conserving the gifts of God's creation, responsible fiscal stewardship, public health and climate change should know this is a moral issue of national concern. The 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 vent and flare it irretrievably into the atmosphere. The Senate is considering using its authority under the Congressional Review Act 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 D.C., I met with the offices of Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. James Clyburn. I also had the opportunity to share a Christian perspective on energy stewardship with the Democrats of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee when I testified in a hearing. Two days after my visit, I was disappointed that the House voted by a 20-vote margin to use the CRA to gut the BLM Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule. On a positive note, South Carolina's U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford (SC-1) was one of the 11 House Republicans who stood up for responsible energy stewardship by voting to uphold the rule.
Now, it is up to the Senate to uphold the rule. Sen. Graham is proving to be an independent thinker who will not jump on President Trump's anti-regulation bandwagon without thoughtful consideration of what is best for our country. I urge people of faith in our state to join me in sharing their perspectives on responsible energy stewardship with Sen. Graham.
As a Christian, I believe that "The Earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it" (Psalms 24:1). If 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.
I live by the Beatitudes, including "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9), and this, too, 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 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. We in South Carolina have already suffered extreme flooding because of climate damage such as rising sea levels and more extreme storms. Other countries like the Philippines and Madagascar feel it worse. While reducing our 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.
Sen. Graham, please uphold our energy values.
Rev. Dr. James Blassingame is president of the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina and a board member of the South Carolina Christian Action Council.
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