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OPINION: ND vets thank Heitkamp on methane vote

In May, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp voted with Republican and Democratic Senators to uphold standards that prevent oil and gas companies from wasting massive amounts of energy resources that belong to the American people, and which are essential to maintaining our nation's energy security.

U.S. national security is inextricably linked to our nation's energy security. If that's put at risk, our soldiers are the first people who will be impacted.

This is why as veterans we are thanking Sen. Heitkamp.

The development of North Dakota's vast oil reserves has undeniably helped shore up our nation's energy security, but excessive flaring and other wasteful drilling operations on North Dakota's public and tribal lands was resulting in massive amounts of energy waste — more than $75 million-worth of gas wasted each year in North Dakota alone.

Nationally, this problem is even more severe. Since 2013 private oil and gas companies have wasted more than $1.6 billion of energy resources that belong to the American people. That's enough to supply the annual energy needs of 1.5 million homes a year.

It is immoral to, on one hand, send soldiers overseas to defend American freedom, and the other, waste the American energy resources that are essential to national security.

Fortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management spent three years drafting a rule that instructs companies to take proven, cost-effective steps to reduce this waste and return these resources to the American people.

These rules received bipartisan support from about 80 percent of North Dakotans and communities across the West who own these natural resources and who have a vested interest in ensuring they are managed responsibly.

Without these standards, more of our energy resources would have been completely wasted. And some analysts believe taxpayers would have lost out on as much $800 million in royalty revenue over the next decade.

That's why more than 2,000 combat veterans joined four generals and an admiral in support of the BLM methane waste rule.

Weeks ago, some members of the senate tried to dismantle these commonsense protections through a blunt mechanism known as the Congressional Review Act. Thankfully, bipartisan, independent thinking from senate leaders such as Sen. Heitkamp helped stopped them.

Sen. Heitkamp's vote to protect the BLM's methane waste standard will bring energy resources — and royalties from those resources — back to North Dakota's tribes and taxpayers.

Our elected officials deserve our thanks when they take actions that put the values of the American people, and the interests of American soldiers, ahead of corporate interests. North Dakotans can be proud of Sen. Heitkamp for proving she is a leader and voting to protect our energy resources.