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Report: Natural Gas "Flaring" Burns Away WYO Cash

January 8, 2014

LANDER, Wyo. - Natural gas goes up in flames every day in Wyoming during a process called "flaring." Those are the flames seen commonly at oil drilling sites, where the natural gas is a by-product.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council has issued a report calling for a reduction of the practice because it causes pollution and wastes the resource. There are good reasons to flare, such as for safety, said Amber Wilson, the group's environmental quality coordinator, but because all flaring is exempted from severance and royalty taxes, it happens more often than it should.

"We think that that's just further incentivizing flaring as opposed to doing what we want to do," she said, "which is say if you're going to flare it, then you have to pay taxes on it because that's a resource that the public will never get back."

The report calls on the Legislature, state Department of Environmental Quality and Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to help guide companies to scale back on burning natural gas.

Natural gas prices are low, which is one reason why drillers just burn it away. Another reason is that they don't have access to pipelines for it. Wilson said the state could work with companies to improve the pipeline grid.

"Some places are out in the middle of nowhere with no pipelines to collect that gas," she said, "and so by working with companies to create that infrastructure, that could make collecting it a lot more appealing."

Gov. Matt Mead mentioned concerns about flaring in his 2013 Energy Strategy.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY