With fire season ravaging Colorado’s land and devastating our air quality, we all know we must immediately implement policies to create clearer skies and fight climate change, which is leading to bigger, more destructive fires. Yet, as we’re seeing this heightened danger to our state, far away in Washington, D.C., politicians are doing the exact opposite of what needs to get done. Specifically, the Trump administration has finalized a catastrophic methane rule that will turbocharge these disastrous problems.
Methane, which is a commonly released gas during the extraction of fossil fuels, is a highly hazardous greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. With this reckless decision, the Trump administration will ratchet up the volume of planet-warming gas in communities across our state for years to come. We can expect more drought, more dead trees, more lightning and more ferocious wildfires.
We no longer have the luxury of treating our atmosphere like a waste dump for such planet-warming gases as methane. With wildfires burning more than 130,000 acres and shutting down I-70 for days, air throughout the state is filled with suffocating, eye-grating smoke from the mountain valleys to Front Range communities — all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hits our lungs the hardest.
Of course, this problem doesn’t stop at our state borders. On the other side of the country, the South is dealing with a record-breaking hurricane season and the earliest named storms on record. The Midwest is reeling from an unexpected derecho storm that demolished millions of acres of crops. And, farther west, Death Valley just hit one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth.
Despite all this, the Trump administration continues its climate denial campaign in full force. They have rolled back the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Car standards, and many other key environmental regulations, locking in pollution for years to come and endangering our families and communities. This latest decision simply adds to that heartbreaking list.
These actions are particularly shocking when you consider how methane is already silently damaging our climate. From a methane cloud over the Southwest’s Four Corners to a recent giant methane leak in Florida, it’s clear the oil and gas industry needs stronger methane regulations rather than less accountability. In fact, this latest move by the Trump administration is so damaging to a stable climate that even the world’s largest oil and gas companies are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency not to move forward with the changes.
So next time you go outside and breathe in a lungful of acrid smoke, be inspired to act. You can pull out your smartphone and write to the EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, asking him to repeal the New Source Performance Standards for the oil and natural gas industry. And while you’re at it, also send a note to Sen. Cory Gardner and ask him to introduce legislation to get methane under control.
Let’s use our voices to speak truth to power. Colorado is on fire, and we’re not going to take it anymore.
Hannah J. Collazo is state director of Environment Colorado and Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center.