Just like we send our best men and women overseas to defend our country, we send our representatives and senators to Capitol Hill to defend our public resources. The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) recently finalized Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to curb natural gas waste from oil and gas activities on public lands – saving American taxpayers millions per year. These are natural gas resources that belong to every American taxpayer and that BLM is charged with wisely managing on our behalf.
Unfortunately, some of our representatives in Congress are threatening to roll back the rule and undermine American energy security. If they are successful, the oil and gas industry would continue to waste $330 million dollars-worth of taxpayer owned natural gas on public lands annually. And even though natural gas in the federal mineral estate is owned by the American taxpayer, the BLM does not assess a royalty on natural gas that is wasted through flaring, venting, and leaks. That means that additional tens of millions of dollars in royalty revenue is lost every year – as much as $800 million over the next decade according to a one report –that would have gone to local, state, federal and tribal governments to fund infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, hospitals, and schools.
This waste is an issue that weakens our national security and America's position on the world stage.
Just a few weeks ago, the House passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would block the methane waste rule and could prevent any "substantially similar" rule from being put in place—ever—without an act of Congress.
Four Generals, including myself, and one Admiral along more than 2,000 U.S. veterans, are taking a stand. This week, we signed a letter addressed to the Senate—urging them to defend the BLM's waste rule. We strongly believe that natural gas waste is a matter of our energy security. It is our Senators' duty to defend our natural resources and protect taxpayers—they must choose to put a stop to this waste.
Natural gas waste is not only irresponsible; it also has serious implications for America's role as a leader in fostering fair and open energy markets. Today, Russia has a stranglehold on natural gas markets from Italy to Germany to the Ukraine. Thanks to our vast domestic reserves of shale gas, the U.S. is poised to become more and more of a world leader in natural gas exports. We should be using our domestic energy resources to free countries from the grip of Russia – not letting that natural gas go up in flames.
Most importantly, how can we ask our soldiers to put their lives on the line, especially in the energy-producing countries in the Middle East, if every day we allow oil and gas companies at home to waste the very resources we're asking them to defend? Stopping natural gas waste is common sense, we simply cannot justify risking the safety of our men and women in uniform, and the security of our country, by wasting natural gas in the development of oil and gas at home.
And when our fighting men and women return home, this rule helps foster an industry that can supply them with solid American jobs. The methane mitigation industry is a Made-in-the-USA success story with more than 75 companies in over 500 locations across 46 states. This includes states such as Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, and South Carolina that both have long, proud histories with our armed services and which are home to companies that sell equipment and provide services to cut methane emissions within the oil and gas industry. In other words, the rule will help put our veterans to work and our energy resources to good use.
America's energy security and the development of our natural resources go hand in hand.
We cannot afford to allow oil and gas companies to continue to vent, flare, and leak methane gas at the expense of taxpayers and our secure and stable energy markets. We need our Senators to step up and defend our country as their constituents expect; they must oppose the reckless CRA resolution that weakens American energy security.
Gen. Paul Eaton served more than 30 years in the U.S. Army, including combat and post-combat assignments in Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia. He currently serves as managing director of Vet Voice, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan foundation that helps veterans become leaders in our nation's democracy through participation in the civic process.
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