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ND Tribes Want Congress to Keep Methane Waste Prevention Rule

Oil and gas companies lose about $330 million a year to methane venting, flaring and leaking on public lands. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
Oil and gas companies lose about $330 million a year to methane venting, flaring and leaking on public lands. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
April 27, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. – Congress could decide as soon as this week the fate of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, and North Dakotans who see the greatest impact from this regulation are speaking up.

Members of Congress are considering repealing the Bureau of Land Management rule, which limits the release of wasted methane from oil and gas operations on public and tribal lands.

Last week, three affiliated tribes in North Dakota on the front line of oil production sent a letter to Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven, asking them to support the BLM rule.

"I'm a tribal citizen,” says Joletta Bird Bear, a member of the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights. “This is my land. The regulations that are being created or revised directly impact me, so I do want a say. I do want a voice in that process."

President Donald Trump has said his rollback of Obama-era regulations will help cut red tape for businesses.

The rule could be repealed under the Congressional Review Act, meaning no regulation "substantially similar" could be put forward in the future.

Oil and gas companies lose about $330 million a year due to flaring, venting and leaking, according to an analysis commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Tom Abe, a retired chemist in New Town, says the greater stakes are environmental. He says there has been very little check on the oil and gas industry, and that there has to be a balance between development and what is best for the environment.

"Rather than err on the side of doing nothing, which could be catastrophic, we should do something now,” he states. “We're late in this game. It's not that much of a threat to our way of life to encourage good regulations and protect our health in the meantime."

Bird Bear notes the detrimental effects of wasted methane on the atmosphere, and adds that North Dakota is flush with a renewable energy source that these companies could invest in: wind.

"Not a day goes by when you've got wind blowing by, and I think to myself, 'There's energy that we're avoiding for some reason, when we could be using that to sustain local community energy needs,'" she points out.

Congress has 60 working days, or until mid-May, to repeal the rule under the Congressional Review Act.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND