Minot Daily News Op-ed: Gutting BLM methane rule hurts ND taxpayers

Every year millions of taxpayer dollars are lost on wasted natural gas in North Dakota and other western states. With the country facing increasing debt and growing deficits this is no time to give away billions of dollars to profitable businesses.

The Department of the Interior administers mineral leasing on 245 million acres of public lands, including almost 60,000 acres in North Dakota. Under the agency’s oversight, oil and gas operators have been flaring, venting, and leaking billions of cubic feet of taxpayer-owned natural gas from federal lands every year. This gas doesn’t get to consumers, and doesn’t generate revenue for taxpayers — it literally goes up in smoke.

Oil and gas companies have only had to pay royalties on a very small portion of this “lost gas.” In our latest analysis, Gas Giveaways, my group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, found that from 2007 to 2016, operators lost nearly 210 billion cubic feet of gas. That’s enough natural gas to supply the residents of North Dakota for 19 years. And it’s worth an estimated $1.1 trillion, but operators paid royalties on only 11 percent of it.

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