Guest column: A snowboarder’s take on new pollution rules
As a lifelong snowboarder, I’ve seen that the mountains provide a lot more than just a place to recreate. Those of us in the sport realize how lucky we are to be able to take advantage of the incredible outdoors and the incomputable value it adds to our lives. Unfortunately, climate change is threatening the Earth we live on and our mountain communities. Greenhouse gases are spewing into the air from oil and gas extraction, affecting our environment, our health, our economies and the sport I love.
Methane, an exceptionally potent greenhouse gas, is driving one-quarter of the climate change we are experiencing today. The oil-and-gas industry is still a significant contributor of methane pollution. These companies are culpable for the massive amounts of methane pollution that causes climate change.
That’s why it’s so important that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new rule that will limit dangerous methane gas pollution from new and expanded oil and gas industry sources.
This will help stem the oil and gas industry’s growing impact on our climate — natural-gas production is expected to grow by over 25 percent in the next decade, and without these protections, methane pollution would likewise continue to rise. This new rule also will reduce the amount of toxic pollutants in the air we breathe that cause asthma or cancer. The industry’s actions have cost Americans billions of dollars in environmental damage and health problems.
I am particularly excited about the EPA’s announcement, and it should be welcomed by all those who love and appreciate the great outdoors. The changing climate has caused severe drought in our Western states, causing a vicious cycle of less snowpack, less fresh water and larger forest fires. Colorado is the headwaters to a large part of the West, so when we have water issues, the rest of the West also is in trouble.
If climate change is allowed to continue, fewer people will be able to recreate in our mountain communities that so many of us call home. This would deal a major blow to tourism and our local economies, cutting jobs and revenue. These industries are huge economic engines for Western states like Colorado.
I’ve been lucky enough to pursue my passion through snowboarding. Now I want to make sure that future generations have the same opportunities that I have had. Dangerous methane pollution and climate change put those opportunities at risk.
There are common sense actions that oil and gas companies can easily take to help protect our communities and our planet. They have failed to take these actions voluntarily, even though they cost pennies on the dollar and would make a big difference for our climate. When private corporations fail to act responsibly and protect our environment, it is the EPA’s job to act.
We can’t afford inaction on this issue. It’s now up to us to help sustain the planet we live on. In doing so, not only will we be able to continue enjoying the outdoors, but we also will keep our communities thriving. The EPA’s new standard is a key step toward these goals.
Jake Black is a professional snowboarder and a Colorado native.
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