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Vets Lobby WV Senators Against Wasting Natural Gas on Public Lands

Natural gas worth hundreds of millions of dollars is vented or flared from federal land each year. (FracTracker Alliance)
Natural gas worth hundreds of millions of dollars is vented or flared from federal land each year. (FracTracker Alliance)
May 1, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A rollback of a rule against the flaring of waste gas on public land is up before the U.S. Senate.

A group of military veterans led by five retired generals want Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito to vote no.

Senate Joint Resolution 11 would undo an Obama administration limit on venting and flaring of natural gas on Bureau of Land Management leases.

Retired Gen. Paul Eaton, managing director of the Vet Voice Foundation, is one of those who signed a letter against the resolution. He says it's offensive to risk American lives overseas protecting something being wasted at home.

"How can we ask our soldiers to put their lives on the line in the energy producing countries in the Middle East if every day we allow oil and gas companies at home to just blow this stuff into the atmosphere, or flaring it?" he questions.

Supporters of the resolution argue that the resolution would roll back an unnecessary barrier to oil and gas companies' profitable exploitation of public lands.

Supporters of the rule say it is good for the taxpayers because it forces drillers to recapture something valuable that belongs to the public, rather than letting it be wasted.

Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, says the rule is good for the industry in the long run. He says since the rule was put in place, there are now 75 companies doing methane mitigation at hundreds of sites.

"They're rooted in bedrock conservative values, preventing taxpayer waste and creating jobs,” he points out. “The methane that's emitted into the air is wasted royalty dollars for taxpayers and uncaptured product for oil and gas companies."

Eaton says senators have an obligation to look after the American people's best interests.

"What we're talking about is important – $800 million important,” he states. “Make sure we the American taxpayer are benefiting from harvesting a valuable resource."

The resolution already has passed the House, but remains stalled in the Senate.

Federal figures say enough gas was vented on federal and tribal lands to serve more than 6 million households a year.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV