Repeal of Environmental Regulations Will Impact Latinx Health

By Yessenia Funes Mar 20, 2017

The national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens is emphasizing how the current administration’s decisions on climate and the environment will impact Latinx people’s health.

In a March 17 column he wrote for The Hill, Brent Wilkes sheds light on resolution H.J.Res.36, which is making its way through Congress and would repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. The bureau updated this rule in November 2016 (after 30 years of no updates) to better regulate natural gas operators and reduce the amount of natural gas wasted through leaks and flaring.

However, industry critics agree with Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley, who wrote in a February statement posted to the American Petroleum Institute website that it “adds significant costs and reduces local revenues without corresponding environmental or consumer benefits.” On the flip side, nonpartisan watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project stated on its website that the rule would increase company profits and protect the health of nearby communities that have to deal with the methane that results from those leaks.

Many of these communities are Latinx, Wilkes stated in The Hill.

He goes on:

Oil and gas operations create a lot of methane pollution. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a powerful climate change pollutant. When companies deliberately vent or flare methane from leaky equipment and infrastructure, they are doing irreparable damage to our environment.

Moreover, when methane emissions occur, they are often accompanied by the release of cancer-causing toxins like benzene and ozone-forming pollutants. Ozone pollution is a major contributor to the 153,000 childhood asthma attacks that happen each year in Latin[x] communities and worsens pulmonary diseases like emphysema.

Not unexpectedly, Latinx voters in the West support the methane rule: In a January 2017 survey that looked at seven states—Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming—76 percent of the 476 Latinx voters Colorado College polled said they are in favor of it.

In response to this, Wilkes writes:

That’s why we are disappointed to see messaging opposing the [Bureau of Land Management] natural gas waste rule. As the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the country, we know this is not the view of the larger Latino community and those that claim this as the consensus view need to reassess their position.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced the resolution to repeal the rule on January 30, 2017, and it’s making its way to President Donald Trump after the House passed it in February. If Trump ultimately signs this, which would happen if the Senate passes it in a vote which is currently unscheduled, Latinxs in the West will experience ongoing pollution, Wilkes argues.

Read Wilkes’ complete commentary here.