Letter: BLM's duty is to protect tribes from wasting natural gas
Every day, our resources are burnt, released, or lost right in front of our eyes. Our money is literally going up in smoke. Waste of tribal resources deprives communities of royalty revenue that is vital to funding health care, education and roads. We are losing more revenue and getting more pollution in our air in return.
In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management allowed over $100 million worth of natural gas to be wasted due to venting, flaring and leaks on tribal lands across the U.S. The truth is we don't even know how much money tribal governments have lost or the volume of hazardous air pollutants that has been released into our communities. Flaring and venting is only half the problem. Nearly half of all emissions on public and tribal lands occur from leaks in the vast network of oil and gas wells, pipelines, processing facilities and storage tanks. We need to rein in natural gas waste.
The BLM can help by acting now on the natural gas waste rule to limit natural gas venting, flaring and equipment leaks on tribal lands. The Fort Berthold community supports the rule. At a public hearing earlier this year, people of Fort Berthold and the Three Affiliated Tribes spoke in favor of the rule, calling on the BLM to finalize the methane waste rule as quickly as possible.
As our chairman Mark Fox said, when natural gas is wasted "[t]he oil companies don't get paid, the tribes don't get paid and the individuals that own mineral rights here on Fort Berthold do not get paid so flaring is not a good thing."
The good news is a whole new industry in methane mitigation is developing in North Dakota and across the nation to reduce natural gas waste. Cutting waste increases revenue for tribes and Western states and creates jobs. At a time when drilling is slowing down considerably due to low energy prices, jobs cutting waste and pollution from well sites are welcomed.
The BLM has a duty to protect tribes from natural gas waste. We ask the BLM to stand alongside the people of North Dakota, the Three Affiliated Tribes, and the Fort Berthold community and support our efforts to protect our resources, health and revenue. The rule is long overdue. The sooner it is finalized, the sooner we can stop losing revenue and start cleaning up our air.