A group of more than 200 veterans, including two retired major generals, urged the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to require oil and gas companies leasing on public land to capture or eliminate methane gas emissions.

In a petition to President Obama, DOI Secretary Sally Jewell and BLM Director Neil Kornze, the veterans' group Vet Voice Foundation (VVF) -- which claims 450,000 members nationwide -- called the methane emissions dangerous due to their potency in causing climate change.

"Every year, oil and gas companies knowingly waste enough natural gas through leaks, venting, and flaring to meet the heating and cooking needs of over five million American homes," the VVF said, adding that it was joining "a growing coalition of diverse groups asking that we stop the dangerous waste when companies extract oil and gas on our shared and treasured outdoor areas.

"These are the lands we love and swore to defend as American service members. They are owned by every citizen of this democracy, and should have higher standards when exploited for fossil fuels."

Last January, the BLM unveiled proposed rules governing flaring and venting of associated natural gas on public and tribal lands (see Daily GPI, Jan. 22). As proposed, operators would be required to deploy equipment and processes to limit the amount of flared gas at oil wells on public and tribal lands, and to periodically inspect their wells for leaks. They would also be required to limit venting from storage tanks. The rules also clarify when operators owe the government royalties, and they give the BLM the option of setting certain royalty rates higher than 12.5%.

Republicans in the U.S. House, as well as state regulators and local officials, are generally opposed to the proposed rules and have characterized them as an overreach by the government (see Daily GPIApril 27). They also claim the BLM is extremely inefficient in its duties.

DOI officials have countered that the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 gives the BLM the authority to develop regulations, and that the Indian Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 extend that authority.