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Lisa DeVille

Lisa DeVille

LAUREN DONOVAN BISMARCK TRIBUNE

Recently, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed destructive rollbacks to the Bureau of Land Management’s 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention rule, which aims to prevent methane waste and limit wasteful flaring of natural gas on public and tribal lands. What’s worse is that BLM’s own analysis, shows that their latest proposal to replace the 2016 rule would actually reduce natural gas supply from federal lands and would cost Americans more than $1 billion in wasted natural gas and pollution.

This reckless move risks the health of those on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, endangers the environment, and wastes our limited natural resources to the tune of billions of dollars each year.

The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is surrounded by nearly 1,000 oil and gas wells that make the unceasing extraction of the resources beneath our land hard to escape. The air smells like rotten eggs, the noise disrupts our lives and the gas flares make our night skies look like bright summer days.

But even with all the evidence of pollution, I did not fully understand the severity of the problem until I stood next to a gas well with an infrared camera in 2016. Giant plumes of natural gas leaked into the atmosphere like an invisible oil spill, unseen by the naked eye.

As an environmental studies graduate, climate activist and a Manderee resident, witnessing the extent of the methane leakage across my community left me speechless.

Studies have shown that flaring, venting and leaking of methane and natural gas causes increased risks of asthma, respiratory infections, cancer and neurological damage. We have experienced several of these impacts firsthand as oil and gas activity has increased exponentially over the last decade on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Though we are told that we live a safe distance from the drilling, our family’s medical tests mirror those of the drillers themselves. They get paid to take that health risk. We don’t.

I also worry about how unchecked methane pollution impacts the planet and how I can make sure future generations get to experience our lands and the outdoors in the same way we do today. Methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, is the second-largest contributor to human-caused climate change.

Zinke is eager to roll back these commonsense methane pollution safeguards, without holding a single hearing to listen to my concerns and the concerns of my neighbors and family members. This is simply unacceptable -- my voice and the hundreds of thousands of others across the West deserve to be heard; we can’t tolerate any more waste, lost revenues, or pollution -- Zinke cannot silence us.

The suspension of the rule hurts our pocketbooks, too. The Government Accountability Office found in 2010 that 40 percent of the natural gas vented and flared on federal lands could be captured cheaply with technology that was cost-effective and readily available. Without the Waste Prevention Rule, companies pay less royalties on the gas they waste which means taxpayers lose out on millions of dollars in revenue every year -- including funding for schools and infrastructure projects that our community desperately needs.

We need leaders who know the value of our taxpayer owned natural resources, are committed to preserving American energy resources, and are willing to put residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and all Americans ahead of the wishes of special interests. Instead of selling us out to the highest bidder -- Zinke needs to listen to those who face the impacts of methane waste every day -- by holding hearings in impacted communities and extending the comment period deadline so that all stakeholders’ concerns can be heard and considered. These are all of our natural resources -- we deserve a chance to speak up and protect them from being recklessly wasted by oil and gas companies.

Lisa DeVille is the president of the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights.

Suspension of the rule hurts our pocketbooks, too. The Government Accountability Office found in 2010 that 40 percent of the natural gas vented and flared on federal lands could be captured cheaply with technology that was cost-effective and readily available. Without the Waste Prevention Rule, companies pay less royalties on the gas they waste which means taxpayers lose out on millions of dollars in revenue every year -- including funding for schools and infrastructure projects that our community desperately needs.

We need leaders who know the value of our taxpayer owned natural resources, are committed to preserving American energy resources, and are willing to put residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and all Americans ahead of the wishes of special interests. Instead of selling us out to the highest bidder -- Zinke needs to listen to those who face the impacts of methane waste every day -- by holding hearings in impacted communities and extending the comment period deadline so that all stakeholders’ concerns can be heard and considered. These are all of our natural resources -- we deserve a chance to speak up and protect them from being recklessly wasted by oil and gas companies.

 Lisa DeVille is the president of the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights.

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