Flaring can be seen from a drilling rig on the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. Photo by Talli Nauman / Native Sun News Today

Tribal citizens protest Trump's environmental rollbacks

Oil field hazards: Venting, flaring and leaks
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

MANDAREE, NORTH DAKOTA – Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation residents, who live at the center of the oil fracking fields in the Bakken Formation here, were among the first on a raft of critics to scorn recently unveiled federal schemes for reducing regulations on toxic methane pollution at wellheads.

On September. 18, the Bureau of Land Management announced its rollback of the 2016 regulations for Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation, commonly called the Methane Rule.

That action came on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency’s September 11 proposal to gut the 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, a document that will be open to public comment for 60 days after its upcoming publication in the Federal Register.

Responding to the about-face, Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights (POWER) Chair Lisa DeVille, a member of the MHA Nation and resident of Mandaree, noted, “Our tribal communities are directly impacted by the Methane Rule.

“I see venting, flaring, and leaks of natural gas every day on the Fort Berthold Reservation, where I live. I know that our air is polluted from oil and gas extraction. I see how much gas is wasted and have experienced health effects from the emissions.

“It is our people who breathe in the toxins that can be prevented from spilling into our atmosphere. It is our children, my grandchildren, that are breathing it in.” She vowed to defend the safeguards for the sake of health, environment and climate impact.

Lisa DeVille, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, leads the advocacy group known as Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, or POWER. Courtesy photo

As of five years ago, some 11,000 people lived within a mile of a flare in North Dakota, according to DeVille, who has a degree in Environmental Science from Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish Community College in New Town, North Dakota, and is a recipient of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition “Arc of Justice Award” for outstanding environmental justice achievements.

Long term exposure to methane emissions can result in health impacts such as asthma, cancer, neurological damage, pulmonary reduction, coronary problems, endocrine disruption, and headaches.

Methane is second-only to carbon dioxide in the size of its contribution to global warming, and its climate change potential is 25 times greater. It also contains volatile organic compounds such as benzene, a known carcinogen.

Nearly 30 percent of all U.S. methane emissions come from oil and gas production, transmission and distribution, according to the EPA. A NASA study published in January confirms the global methane increase that coincided with the onset of the U.S. shale boom is largely attributable to oil and gas.

However, announcing the a href="https://www.indianz.com/News/2018/09/27/2018-20689.pdf">BLM’s new rule, Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the 2016 version overlapped too many state, tribal and other federal regulations. Additionally, the agency determined that the previous Administration underestimated the cost of its application, which would be “unnecessarily burdensome on the private sector,” he said.

“The Trump Administration is committed to innovative regulatory improvement and environmental stewardship, while appropriately respecting the clear and distinct authorities of the states, tribes, as well as the direction we receive from Congress,” Bernhardt added in a media statement.

The states of California and New Mexico immediately sued the Trump Administration over the rule, which was a direct result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13771, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, and Secretarial Order 3349, American Energy Independence.


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Forthcoming Federal Register Notice
Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation; Rescission or Revision of Certain Requirements (To Be Published September 28, 2018)

Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com

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