Sponsored Essay: U.S. Vets Ask Administration to Finalize Natural Gas Rule

A group of over 200 U.S. service veterans, including two retired generals and the Vet Voice Foundation, sent a petition calling for an end to wasting American energy resources from oil and gas leases on public lands to President Barack Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze.

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Land Management proposed rules to cut natural gas waste during oil and gas development on our nation’s public lands. Veterans support BLM’s natural gas waste rule because it is critical for our energy security, our economy, climate, communities, and health.

It is simply unconscionable that while we allow oil and gas companies to waste America’s energy resources from taxpayer-owned public lands while we have put our soldier in harm’s way for decades trying to bring stability in the Middle East where we are far too dependent on foreign oil.

Oil and gas companies waste America’s energy resources when methane, the primary component of natural gas, is deliberately vented and flared or through leaks from equipment and infrastructure.

In fact, nearly $330 million dollars’ worth of natural gas is wasted on public and tribal lands each and every year. That’s enough natural gas to meet the heating and cooking needs of over 1.5 million American homes per year – or a city the size of Chicago.

And just last month, NASA found that oil and gas operations were a huge contributor to a methane cloud the size of Delaware over the Four Corners region of the US

What’s more, oil and gas companies aren’t required to pay royalties on the natural gas they burn, leak, or outright release into the air, further robbing individual statesof millions of dollars in royalty revenue that would go to local infrastructure projects, public education, and more. 

At a time when many states are struggling with budget deficits, oil and gas companies have a moral obligation to ensure that American energy and tax dollars do not, literally, go up in smoke.

Methane is also a dangerous greenhouse gas and has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. As areas of our country are already experiencing devastating weather patterns linked to climate change, reducing natural gas waste and cutting methane pollution is the most important thing we can do now to slow the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing in this country.

Natural waste also poses a public health threat. Other toxic chemicals such as benzene are released which pose a threat to families living near oil and gas operations and to workers. Drilling operations also create ozone-forming pollutants which can trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema.

The truth is that oil and gas companies are putting short-term profits ahead of America’s energy interests. There are cost-effective technologies exist today to capture methane and reduce leaks, which would only cost pennies on the dollar to implement.

Cutting natural gas waste also creates employment opportunities. The methane mitigation sector is growing, currently employing people in well-paying jobs across 46 states, and reducing natural gas waste has resulted in thousands of jobs across our country.

As American service members, we swore to defend America – including our public lands and energy resources. We cannot stand by and watch companies burn off natural gas, especially when a family down the road cannot afford to heat their homes or pay for electricity. That is unacceptable.

The BLM must adopt their natural gas waste rule now. Every month that goes by means millions of dollars in wasted natural gas and lost royalty revenue. We call on the Obama Administration to protect our energy resources, states, communities, and public.    

Major General Donald E. Edwards was Adjutant General of the State of Vermont from 1981 to 1997, served in the Vermont House of Representatives, and is a Vietnam veteran.