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ND Native Americans Continue Push for Flaring Rules

Residents living near North Dakota's natural-gas flares have been asking the government to look into possible health effects. Credit: iStock
Residents living near North Dakota's natural-gas flares have been asking the government to look into possible health effects. Credit: iStock
December 4, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - Today ends the public comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency's new natural-gas emissions rules, and Native American residents living near some of North Dakota's natural-gas flares have been trying to get the government to listen to their health concerns.

Lisa DeVille, a Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara tribal member, lives on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, an area that also is home to more than 1,400 active oil wells. Unused excess gas is being wasted as oil companies burn it off, which then sends large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, both greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere, DeVille said.

"The night looks still like it's day," she said. "I mean, that's how bad it is, the flaring here. We don't know the exact impact of it yet, because there is no actual air-quality monitoring here."

The most recent numbers from North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources show that about 19 percent of Fort Berthold's natural gas was burned off in flares. Oil companies have argued that it's the cheapest option to take care of the excess gas.

Meanwhile, Mark Fox, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, has been pushing for the Bureau of Land Management to enact strong rules to reduce methane waste on federal and tribal-owned lands.

Last month, DeVille was in Washington to testify before the EPA. She and other reservation residents said they need stronger environmental protections in the area.

"On our reservation, we don't have no laws created against gas flaring, and we need to enforce them," she said. "We need people who are knowledgeable in those areas."

In October, Gov. Jack Dalrymple gave the oil industry an extra 10 months to cut down on its natural-gas flaring. Meanwhile, the EPA is considering for the first time new rules to limit methane pollution under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA gas-rule extension is online here. EPA gas rule facts are here.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND