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New Rules Seek to Limit Flaring on Tribal, Federal Lands

New federal rules could severely limit methane flaring at North Dakota's tribal and public gas wells. (iStockphoto)
New federal rules could severely limit methane flaring at North Dakota's tribal and public gas wells. (iStockphoto)
January 25, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. – The U.S. soon could see tighter restrictions on oil and gas flaring, and, if approved, that could have some long-term effects on North Dakota's air quality and economy.

The Bureau of Land Management proposed new rules Friday that would limit venting and flaring at gas wells on public and tribal lands.

Critics of the practice say it releases potentially harmful methane into the atmosphere.

North Dakota House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad is praising the BLM's move. He says flaring is costing the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue that could have been earned if the gas was captured and sold.

"When we talk about air quality, it's got to be part of that concern,” he stresses. “So, to rein in this flaring, I think it's a positive move in the right direction."

Methane has been shown to be 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Critics, such as the American Petroleum Institute, say the new rules "could drive more energy production off federal lands."

Conservation groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, argue that oil and gas companies, which operate on federal and tribal lands, flare enough natural gas each year to heat every home in North Dakota for more than four years.

Onstad says the new rules will cut down on that waste.

"And you tell me how you're going to recover that gas after it gets flared back when we could be using it for other things," he states.

Mark Fox, chairman of North Dakota's Three Affiliated Tribes, also has been pushing for federal restrictions on flaring in the state.

The BLM's proposal is part of President Barack Obama's overall plan to reduce methane pollution by nearly half over the next decade.

The BLM will hold public hearings on the new rules starting next month.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND