In the last decade, our country has secured greater energy security by diversifying our energy portfolio into renewables and energy efficiency as we continue to develop our domestic natural resources, including our oil and gas reserves, across our public lands.
These publicly-owned resources help power our day to day lives, including fueling our cars and heating our homes. But for years, oil and gas companies have been wasting finite natural gas to the tune of $330 million dollars each year; with every bit that’s vented, flared and leaked, our energy security is slowly weakened and our standing on the world stage diminishes.
When that natural gas is wasted, taxpayers lose out on tens of millions of dollars in royalty revenue every single year.
And methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 80 times more powerful that carbon dioxide as a climate change pollutant. Wasting energy and threatening our climate when there are alternatives makes no sense.
Much like we send our troops overseas, often to energy producing countries in the Middle East, we send our representatives and senators to Washington, D.C. to defend their constituents and safeguard valuable natural resources.
Unfortunately, some in Congress are shirking this responsibility to voters and seem prepared to allow our valuable public energy resources to continue to go up in flames, at the behest of the oil and gas industry.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management finalized the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which aims to curb methane waste from of venting, flaring, and leaking across our public lands. The House, just a few weeks ago, passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would not only block the BLM methane rule, but it would prevent any substantially similar rule limiting methane waste from being put in place ever—without an act of Congress.
The Senate is next to consider the CRA. There was bipartisan opposition to the rollback in the House, and the Senate vote is very close where one or two senators will make all the difference.
And in a recent Secretarial Order, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a 21-day review of the BLM methane waste rule. The BLM spent three years engaging communities across the country, to understand how methane waste has impacted their communities. Zinke and the Department of Interior should not ignore the scope and breadth of that support as they conduct that review.
Recently, four Generals, an Admiral, and more than 2,000 U.S. veterans signed a letter addressed to the Senate—urging them to defend the BLM's waste rule. In their letter, they underscored how our nation’s energy security and the development of our natural resources are inextricably linked.
Wasting methane is not only irresponsible, it has serious national security implications that could impact America’s role as a leader in fostering energy security. Today, Russia has a stranglehold on natural gas markets from Italy to Germany to the Ukraine. Our domestic energy resources should be put on the open market and not go up in flames while our friends are too dependent on Russian energy resources.
Thankfully, we have the tools in place to cut natural gas waste. In fact, the methane mitigation industry has continued to grow as states and the federal government have taken action to cut methane. Now, more than 75 companies at over 500 locations across the U.S. are putting Americans to work manufacturing equipment and finding and fixing leaks in the field.
The BLM rule will help to grow that burgeoning industry and as we ensure American-owned resources don’t go to waste and taxpayers receive their fair share when natural gas is developed on public and tribal lands.
Our senators need to defend these resources and their constituents by opposing the CRA resolution that threatens America’s energy security, and the Department of Interior should work to make sure the rule is strongly and swiftly implemented.
Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.) is Chief Executive Officer, American Security Project
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.