Is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp on our side? Right now, a Congressional Review Act is before the Senate to permanently kill the Bureau of Land Management methane rule and its protective benefits for federal lands, including where I live on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
If this happens, the CRA will also prohibit the BLM from ever re-issuing the methane rule, or similar “no waste” regulations for the oil & gas industry. I attended Senator Heitkamp’s public meeting in Bismarck last week. Tribal members urged her to support the BLM’s methane rule; when asked where she stood, Sen. Heitkamp said she is undecided.
By requiring natural gas flaring and venting to be reduced or stopped, the BLM rule will improve air quality and respiratory health on Fort Berthold. Leaky wells will also have to be fixed. BLM’s rule will also result in more revenue to tribal members for their mineral resources. For the last nine years, oil companies avoided paying royalties to many tribal mineral owners because the extracted natural gas was flared instead.
Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is a major component of the flared and vented natural gas. The BLM rule will aid in reducing global climate change. There are over 1,000 wells within Fort Berthold with another 1,500 expected. Flares at well sites have caused prairie fires in Mandaree and have threatened occupied homes.
Well sites are often sited within a short walking distance from existing homes where tribal families and children live. By reducing the flaring, the BLM rule will help protect lives.
The Senate is expected to vote on the BLM methane rule this week or next. The health and safety of Fort Berthold tribal members and mineral resources are at stake. Is Senator Heitkamp on our side? Tribal voters will be watching.
Theodora Bird Bear