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PNS Daily Newscast - April 20, 2018 


The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Conservative Group Calls Out Rep. Cramer on Methane Waste Rule

Taxpayers lose about $23 million a year in royalties without stricter regulations on methane flaring, according to U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
Taxpayers lose about $23 million a year in royalties without stricter regulations on methane flaring, according to U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
April 12, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. — A conservative group is calling out North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer for his opposition to a regulation aimed at reducing waste from oil and gas wells.

Cramer has hailed the Trump administration's decision to rescind an Obama-era rule that would help prevent leaking and flaring of natural gas on public and tribal lands, saying it hinders economic development in the state. But Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship has hit back, saying taxpayers and the environment are hurt without the rule.

"We're a conservative organization and our mantra is that waste is not conservative,” said David Jenkins, president of the organization. “So, wasting taxpayer resources and the taxpayers not getting the benefit of that resource when it's being leased and used by private companies, to us that doesn't really sound fair."

On Wednesday, the group rolled out ads across North Dakota saying oil and gas companies in the state are burning away 18 percent of their product without this rule. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates federal royalty payments would increase by $23 million a year with the regulation in place.

Federal courts have seesawed on whether the rule has to be in place while the Bureau of Land Management comes up with a new one. Last week, a judge in Wyoming said the rule does not have to go into effect. However, that contradicts a February district court ruling in California.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said the fate of the rule is in the hands of the U.S. Appeals Court. He said the BLM is proposing to weaken waste reduction standards, and called that a step in the wrong direction.

"Protecting our public lands and reducing wasteful methane pollution should be values shared by people on both sides of the aisle,” Learner said. “This should not be a partisan issue. When it comes to avoiding waste, that's common sense, that's good policy."

Opponents of the flaring rule say it would cost businesses too much to implement and could lead to job cuts. But Jenkins called that a ruse, citing a similar regulation in effect in Colorado, where the oil and gas industry is going strong.

"The fact is, these companies take all this into account in their business model,” Jenkins said. “And if it's predictable and they know it's coming, they can build in to do it the right way and they can be just as profitable - if not more profitable - doing it the right way, since they're actually selling more gas that way, than they would be if they didn't have those standards."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND