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North Dakotans Venting on Natural Gas Flaring

PHOTO: A new survey finds a majority of North Dakota voters want policies to limit the venting or flaring of natural gas to reduce the amount of energy wasted on public lands. Photo credit: Roy Luck/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new survey finds a majority of North Dakota voters want policies to limit the venting or flaring of natural gas to reduce the amount of energy wasted on public lands. Photo credit: Roy Luck/Flickr.
October 10, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - The state's ongoing oil and gas boom is producing jobs and economic growth, but it's also sending a steady stream of natural gas into the atmosphere and a majority of North Dakotans want limits to that venting.

A new survey released by the Western Values Project finds 76 percent of likely voters in North Dakota support a rule to reduce the amount of energy wasted on public lands. Ross Lane is director of Western Values Project.

"There's overwhelming support for a strong rule from the Bureau of Land Management to address the problem of venting and flaring," says Lane. "It's essentially to say, 'Look, this is American energy and we need to use it, not just watch it go, literally, up in flames."

In North Dakota, more than one-million barrels of oil are now produced daily, along with more than one-billion cubic feet of natural gas.

With that massive production, North Dakota regulators this year did issue strict goals on flaring. Lane notes, it's not just a matter of clean air, but of finances for North Dakota. The gas that is vented or flared is not sold, thereby reducing the royalty payments for those impacted public lands.

"In the vast majority of this gas that is either vented or flared, they're not paying royalties on that. So taxpayers aren't seeing a single penny from that gas," Lane says.

Nationwide, he adds, taxpayers stand to lose about $800 million over the next decade because of venting and flaring on public lands.

The survey showing the strong backing for stricter limits was conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, where partner Amy Levin says they also found the support cuts across the political spectrum.

"We have 57 percent of Republicans supporting a proposed rule and upwards of 80 percent of Democrats," Lane says. "Independents looking a lot closer to Democrats than Republicans, with 72 percent supporting the rule."

Last year alone in the United States, it's estimated that roughly 125-million cubic feet of natural gas produced on federal public lands was vented or flared off into the atmosphere.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND