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Report Finds Wildfires Aren't Only Losses to Taxpayers

A new campaign calls for assurance that the BLM will issue strict rules to prevent waste of natural gas on federal lands. Credit: wolv/iStock.
A new campaign calls for assurance that the BLM will issue strict rules to prevent waste of natural gas on federal lands. Credit: wolv/iStock.
August 28, 2015

CASPER, Wyo. - Wildfires have hit public lands hard this summer, but those losses aren't the only ones going up in flames in Wyoming and other states. An ad campaign launched this week calls for assurances that the Bureau of Land Management will adopt rules to limit natural-gas flaring, venting and leaks.

The industry calls that loss of natural gas unavoidable, but Michael Surrusco, senior policy analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the standards on which that view is based were put in place in the 1970s.

"Technology has advanced significantly since then," he said. "There's really no reason why they can't use the existing technologies to capture and sell a lot of gas that's being lost now."

Since 2006, Surrusco said, American taxpayers have lost more than $380 million in royalties across the country. The proposed new rules from the BLM are expected later this fall.

Surrusco said there's a solution, and Alaska is noted for its policies to keep waste to a minimum.

"BLM will require oil and gas producers to use technology that currently exists so that that gas is captured," he said, "and that they can then resell, or sell, instead of leaking it into the atmosphere or burning it off, which is just a waste."

A report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils found that about 2 percent of natural-gas production on public lands is flared in Wyoming, and the state has been working on standards to reduce that rate - which already is better than most states.

More information on the Taxpayers for Common Sense ad campaign is online at taxpayer.net. Information on lost royalties is here. The WORC report is at worc.org.

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