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Conservation Groups Want Changes in Venting, Flaring Rules

Wyoming wants to prompt oil and gas developers to account for what they vent or flare at new well sites. Credit: Environmental Defense Fund
November 13. 2015
Wyoming wants to prompt oil and gas developers to account for what they vent or flare at new well sites. Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted this week to make oil companies submit a gas capture plan when they build a new well.

Conservation groups praise the move but say it doesn't go far enough to discourage the practice of burning off excess natural gas, called flaring, or to stop companies from simply venting the gas into the atmosphere - where it pollutes the air and contributes to global warming.

Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project, said the changes should ban venting altogether.

"They do nothing to improve the venting and flaring by companies that are intentionally trying to release methane into the atmosphere," he said. "Every year, taxpayers lose tens of millions of dollars in royalties thanks to this wasteful practice, and this rule does little to nothing to address that problem."

The governor has 10 days to sign off on the draft, and then there will be a 45-day public comment period.

Chris Merrill, associate director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said he wants the state to start requiring a permit for all flaring.

"As currently drafted," he said, "companies can flare up to 60,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day without ever having to get a permit."

John Robitaille, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said the gas is impure and many wells are too far from pipelines to make it feasible to sell. He said he wants the current rules to stand.

"The policy that we've been working under for five years has been working very well," he said, "and we're very pleased that they were able to codify that and put it in a rule."

The Bureau of Land Management is expected to draft its own rules on venting and flaring on federal and tribal lands by early next year.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - WY